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The Liberal & Nationals Government’s $74 million investment in the Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network – including $22 million to develop a new Rural Medical School in Orange – will completely change the way country-raised medical students are trained, with rural and regional Australians the big winners.

Minister for Regional Services and Decentralisation Senator Bridget McKenzie said the Network addressed a common concern across rural and regional Australia – attracting and retaining doctors who understand local issues and concerns. Once all medical schools are operating approximately 140 students will begin their medical studies across the Murray-Darling region each year.

“The current model of medical training, which predominantly happens in the cities, will be turned on its head. The majority of training will happen in the regions and rotations to metropolitan areas for specialist experience kept to a minimum,” Minister McKenzie said.

“The Liberal & Nationals Government is determined to provide better access to medical practitioners for people living in our rural areas. This program will allow students in Orange and the Central West to train within their local area.”

Minister McKenzie said the Liberal & Nationals Government will provide $67 million to five leading universities with campuses in the Murray-Darling region of New South Wales and Victoria to support medical students who will begin studying from 2021 while La Trobe University will receive $7 million to deliver a new biomedical science degree that will start in 2019 and will provide a pathway for 15 students every year to go onto study medicine.

The funding will be provided to:

  • The University of New South Wales (Wagga Wagga);
  • The University of Sydney (Dubbo);
  • Charles Sturt University in partnership with Western Sydney University (Orange);
  • Monash University (Bendigo, Mildura); and
  • The University of Melbourne (Shepparton) with a pathway for undergraduate students from La Trobe University (Bendigo, Wodonga).

Member for Calare, Andrew Gee said today’s announcement is the culmination of many years of lobbying by the communities of the Central West who have been united in the push for a new medical school because they know only too well about the shortage of country doctors.

“This new medical school will change the way medicine is taught and practised in country Australia by training doctors in the bush, for practise in the bush. It will also set the Central West up as a hub for medical training and research. There are billions of dollars in medical research grants up for grabs and this region will be playing an increasingly active role in the medical research field,

“This announcement is the beginning of something great for the region and country Australia.”

Charles Sturt University has been allocated $22 million to develop a new Rural Medical School in Orange in partnership with the University of Western Sydney.

CSU Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Vann said CSU is at the forefront of rural and regional medical training, creating qualified doctors who will understand the particular health needs of regional communities.

“Charles Sturt University welcomes the Government’s commitment to rural and regional medicine,” Professor Vann said.

“In partnership with Western Sydney University, we are developing the curriculum for the Joint Program in Medicine, in consultation with the community, to deliver highly skilled medical professionals for the future of our regions.

“The funding for the CSU-WSU medical school is another step that brings rural and regional Australians closer to accessing high quality healthcare, just as city-based Australians do.”

The funding will pay for capital works including construction of a new “academic hub”, with an Indigenous Student Support Centre, conference room and research centre.

Existing buildings will be refurbished and extended to create modern learning spaces for medicine and health sciences, including an ultrasound room.

A new Clinical Education Learning Centre will also be developed at the Orange Base Hospital campus.

The partnership between Charles Sturt University and the University of Western Sydney builds on the University of Western Sydney’s existing training presence at Bathurst.

Minister McKenzie said it wasn’t only students who would benefit from the innovative Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network, but also the communities.

“When the students have completed their medical studies and are fully qualified, many will choose to look for work in the Orange and Central West region which will give a huge boost to the rural medical workforce in those areas,” Minister McKenzie said.

“The Network will maximise opportunities for school leavers and graduate-entry students living in the country and attract those who want to become a doctor in rural and regional areas.

“The Orange community knows first-hand the benefits of having medical specialists choosing to live in the region. Dr James Gordon, the first neurologist to work full-time in regional Australia, set up in Orange. This program makes it easier for Central West medical students to follow in Dr Gordon’s footsteps.”

The Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network is part of the Government’s $550 million 2018-19 Budget investment in the Stronger Rural Health Strategy to improve access to health services for people living in regional, rural and remote areas of Australia.