Opinion

Bush doctors plan welcome

By Shepparton News

Th announcement of funding for a joint venture between two major universities as a panacea to the perennial problem of how to retain doctors in the country is both welcome and visionary.

Any plan aimed at giving country people better access to a doctor is to be applauded.

In Victoria, the most recent figures show there are 409 clinicians for every 100000 people in Melbourne, but beyond the tram tracks it can be as low as 150 in some areas.

The plan enabling students to study for a medical degree at Bendigo, Shepparton and Albury-Wodonga rather than head to Melbourne has been a long time coming and now finally seems to be on the verge of becoming a reality.

The proposed new undergraduate degree will start in Bendigo and Albury-Wodonga and be taught by La Trobe, and will feed a postgraduate MD program at Shepparton taught by the University of Melbourne.

However, there are questions which remain about the travel time between these sites or whether medical students will actually remain in either area if their studies are to be split between three campuses.

Students from Shepparton, for instance, would undoubtedly have to relocate to Bendigo or Albury/Wodonga to begin their studies.

Equally, students from Bendigo and Albury/Wodonga would have to relocate to complete their degrees.

On a purely parochial basis, the bonus for Shepparton is that under the proposal, the final years of the degree are to be completed here, increasing the likelihood they will stay here.

For students wanting to remain as GPs this might be fine, but for those who wish to continue on to specialise, a move to Melbourne would still be necessary.

These are quibbling questions about the grand plan, and only time will tell whether doctors from the country will remain in the country.

Nevertheless, it will be the only Victorian program where students can do all their training in rural and regional areas from start to finish, and it is to be welcomed on that basis.

We congratulate La Trobe and Melbourne universities for collaborating to deliver this much-needed chance for our best and brightest medical students to remain, and hopefully practice in the country.