It should have come as no surprise to federal politicians that an announcement of measures to encourage doctors to study and stay in the regions was overshadowed by demands for a rural medical school.
Regional universities, medical groups and community members have been lobbying for the Murray Darling Medical School (MDMS) for at least two years and are not going to give in easily.
Studies have shown most rural students who are educated in the health disciplines at regional universities work and live in the regions after they graduate.
Regional universities and others say it follows medical students from the regions would do the same.
The issue is not complex, but struggles to get serious attention from the federal government.
Before last year’s federal election, Charles Sturt University and La Trobe University in Victoria lobbied Canberra for a joint medical school. They didn’t get it.
But, the MDMS is not going to go away.
It was the main focus of questions when federal Assistant Health Minister Dr David Gillespie visited Dubbo last Thursday to announce a national, multi-million-dollar plan to provide specialist training for doctors in the bush.
He announced 26 new training hubs to “expand postgraduate training opportunities” for doctors in regional and rural Australia and to address workforce shortages.
The government is supporting the University of Sydney’s “vision” for its School of Rural Health in Dubbo and Orange to offer specialist training to doctors.
Quizzed on the MDMS, Dr Gillespie said: “The whole medical undergraduate training places, numbers and distribution is under review. I can’t really comment.”
The federal government is spending $54.4 million on the training hubs and three new University Departments of Rural Health (UDRH), one of them at CSU.
It would be ungracious not to recognise and be grateful for these efforts and the investment.
But, when the sums are done the hubs look set to receive an average of $1 million each and the UDRH in our region would get about $9 million spread over three years.
Those calling for a long-term solution to beat doctor shortages and help the regions “grow” their own could be excused for seeing it all as just another sugar-coated pill.