Over five years ago, Waikato University proposed launching a medical school and promptly came under heavy attack from then Auckland uni’ Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheson.
Stuart branded the proposal an “ill-considered folly,” but acknowledging the then dire situation with grossly insufficient GPs being produced for New Zealand’s needs, and particularly the rural districts.
At the time we’d not increased our output of new GPs for some years and were reliant on importing foreign doctors; mainly from India, while our population was rising annually thanks to immigration. Of the doctors currently registered in New Zealand, an astonishing 45% are foreign imports, a percentage massively higher than any OECD nation, however, only a third remain here after 3 years. More significantly, they often lack understanding of New Zealand culture.
Currently we have one medical school for every 2.35 million people, the UK has twice as many per capita, America and Canada, four times as many, while Ireland with a slightly smaller population has six.
Stuart claimed it was silly to spend hundreds of millions setting up a third medical school when two adequate ones already existed in Auckland and Otago. Jointly with Otago he then launched a bid for government funding to create a “national school of rural health.”
This seemed an odd proposition as it was certainly news to me that country folk have different medical problems than urban dwellers. When pressed by Stuff journalists Stuart refused to comment. They then filed an Official Information Act request with Auckland Uni’ seeking correspondence and documents on this proposition. Presumably to thwart them Auckland hit Stuff with a ridiculous charge, this action leading to the Ombudsman’s intervention.
The then National government indicated sympathy with the Waikato proposal, however, all of this obviously necessary action went by the wayside when Winston’s shock move resulted in a hugely unready new government. Then along came Covid and the effective close-down of the nation.
Today we pay the price, and not just in the countryside. Few doctors in both town and country will currently take on new patients. More alarming, as in Britain for similar reasons nearly half, so massively over-worked, currently want out altogether.
Recently Jacinda said New Zealand is too small to have three medical schools which is nonsense by international developed nations’ standards, as I’ve detailed. Dr Shane Reti, the Health Minister in a years’ time has however, expressed sympathy to a Waikato medical school being established.
So why Waikato and not say on central geographic grounds, Wellington?
First Victoria university has expressed no interest, probably for good reasons such as already costly student accommodation, construction costs higher than elsewhere and the like.
Because of its relatively remote location Dunedin is an expensive location for students, as is crowded Auckland.
Hamilton by contrast is comparatively cheap plus it’s handy for probably 60% of our population.
But best of all, Waikato university’s Vice-Chancellor Neil Quigley and his key associates are passionate about the proposition. Since Neil took over the reigns about a decade back he has converted the university from a laughing stock to an institution now respected.
By election time next year our medical crisis will be the biggest nail in the government’s coffin, not that it needs any more.
Our nurses are being wooed by Australia with double their current NZ salaries while our hospital situation is already at crisis point as the media point out virtually daily with distressing tales of individual cases. I fear for New Zealand.
Don’t expect another medical school to push up the number of GPs. Medical schools produce generic medical graduates who then work two years as house surgeons before specialising.
This can take another 6-7 years.
The problem is that general practice has become so utterly undesirable that few young doctors want to do it, and I don’t blame them. Poor and sinking incomes, terrible work loads and far too much paperwork. Every election some politician says you’re going to be free.
Another med school won’t change this.
You are probably correct !!
The biggest mistake this country has made with Covid was to stop all normal function of the countries institutions which allowed for the development of “because of Covid” excuse. A separate entity should have been setup to deal with any Covid issues and allow the rest of the country to concentrate on business as usual.
One of my daughters is studying health sciences at Otago. First hand i am seeing what a utter fiasco the training of medical aspirants is. Out of 1000 odd studying health sciences , they get funnelled down to aprox 100 places requiring average marks of 96% + to secure a space. Of those 100 spaces approx 30 are to Maori/Pacifica who need only a 70% pass rate. (Yes that is not logical in many respects) . Then another 10 odd spaces go to previously rural dwellers (assuming they go back home – most wont) leaving a only 60 places left for European/Indian/Asian/city students.
So pretty much flog your guts out studying first year to pass , do 5 years study , another 2 years slave labour internship at low pay rates up to 80 hours a week , be saddled with over $100,000 student debt and finally after all that if you survive, get paid $180k to $250k PA to have a whole pile of clients moaning at you each day .
Unsurprisingly they also say many public now have no respect for them at hospitals as they have a belief they should run around after patients and their visitors.
My daughter wised up to this when two of her high school tutors were moonlighting medical interns and understandably she asked why . They said the amount of debt they had taken on , they needed more income , one said worst decision of her life and both said wanted to get out of being a doctor. She decided research and health management would be a better gig.
However there are many first generation children of immigrants who feel the prestige of being a doctor or the desire to help mankind is a worthwhile endeavour who still wish to pursue this carrer. It is very clear a billion dollars from the covid fund would have had significantly better outcomes if they had used it to build another medical school and adjoining a hospital with affiliated medical research facilities. A wasted opportunity. The vice chancellor of Auckland University should be ashamed of himself
Clearly you wouldn’t choose a career in medicine if income and status where at the top of your list..
What I find bizarre is the discrimination, implicit in having a lower bar of entry for Maori/Pacifica students, which seems to imply the needs of Maori/Pacifica patients somehow require less able doctors.
I feel sorry for all the doctors out there who are not allowed to tell the truth. That being that more than 75% of their patients would have far few medical issues if they were a health weight. No excuses.
Unless any political party is going to make a hefty commitment to health rather than the dilly dallying around the periphery, just like both the main political parties do with housing and education then I can see no alternative but the private sector get involved to get the work done. I for one would be more than happy to pay for quality health care.
And of course the present minister of health continues to insist there is no health crisis in New Zealand…
This article regarding the Waikato University GP training proposal is in my opinion, sadly, accurate. What makes it more frustrating is that even if there is an immediate reversal on the GP training the benefits from here will probably now take a decade to arrive.
I am an Otago University graduate and loved my time there and am loyal (read biased) toward that Institution. But at the time of the Waikato University proposal and frustrating commentary from Auckland and Otago University it did appear, at least to some degree, to be a case of the established Medical Schools wanting to protect their position.
The Waikato proposal had a lot of positives, not least of which it was to encourage students with other qualifications to use those as credits, to enter into the professional years of the medical qualification. That would attract more mature students.
If it is a status thing, stuff it, call the Waikato qualification something slightly different. Perhaps limit its application to GP career options only. In the rural centers in the middle of the north island the issue is access to health care. The preventative benefit of ready access to healthcare with a professional with a perhaps more specific qualification would be better than the current situation. That is a 3 week wait for an appointment. GP practices shutting off new clients. Reluctance to travel to main centers to wait in hospital emergency departments for many hours etc.
We do know there are very able and dedicated students being rejected from the existing medical schools based on extremely competitive Professional year entry standards (exacerbated for individuals by “positive” discrimination in terms of origin i.e. rural/urban, culture etc).
There are good, able motivated candidates available.
We know there is a long-term shortage of Doctors particularly in rural communities.
The existing health Professionals without doubt need support to sustainably do their jobs.
There are no doubt way smarter people than me involved in these issues. But it appears a no brainer. Forget the past. Get the additional GP training underway. Now!
Medical education has been captured by the elite; limiting numbers to keep their incomes high, with a strong bias towards current doctors children being given preference.
I know this for a fact as a best mates son got an 84% average in the intermediate year and missed out, while some of his mates on lower marks with connections were accepted. This son has an excellent personality, and would have made a great doctor but has gone on to do other things…
Life is not fair, and its still about who you know not what you know; and its never going to change.
As for another doctors course, lets not rule out Massey University in Palmerston North. They have the vets course down there and facilities, and accommodation costs are probably the lowest of universities in the country…
Perhaps an alternative would be to take in more numbers, but confine those with marks between 75% to 85% to GP status…The reality is GP’s quality of care is a mixed bag already…
…..meanwhile on de news today …de government announce…Maori will be getting …another
$100 milllion in an effort to study things.
A mate (..not the marrying type ….really ) said to me the other day…
“…. hey man..if there’s one thing I hate more than racism.. its political correctness.
so i’m a racist !! ..god I hate racists “