CSU set on training more rural doctors

CHARLES Sturt University’s bid for a medical school would gather pace once the federal budget process was sorted, its chancellor Lawrie Willett said yesterday.

This was the last step, he said, for the university to become a “genuinely significant, comprehensive regional university”.

Mr Willett made the comments before his last official ceremony at the Albury-Wodonga campus.

His role ends on December 2.

Thirty-one scholarships were presented to students last night, including 2014 David Battersby Award for Student Citizenship winner Lewis Tinsley, who is undertaking a bachelor of environmental science and management.

Mr Willett said he was extremely proud of the university’s achievements during his 12 years in the job.

It was ready for its third phase, after the foundation years and the time in which it established its schools of veterinary science and dentistry.

“Hopefully that third chapter will see the last little bit of that jigsaw to turn it into a university that offers all the things you see in the major metropolitan areas.”

Mr Willett, 75, a former head of the federal Department of Health, said the government understood there needed to be a rural-based medical school.

“We just happen to find ourselves in a budget situation,” he said.

“The government calls it a crisis, there are others who say it’s not necessarily a crisis.

“But it’s something we’ve got to deal with in the longer term.”

Mr Willett said he hoped the government would come on board once it got through this budget process.

“A large part of what we are proposing to do, along with La Trobe University, is to actually train people for rural practice,” he said.

“After the fourth year of the student’s six-year course they could elect, if they wish, to become a rural practitioner.”

Mr Willett said a problem with a lot of city GPs today was they were largely “running a drafting pen” in the way they referred so many cases straight to specialists.

“In the old days GPs delivered the babies and did all sorts of things,” he said.

“As soon as you get out of those regional areas those people find themselves having to travel to Wagga or Albury or Melbourne to get many of the things that they need.

“That’s because the local GP isn’t as skilled as he used to be.”

Mr Willett said technology such as the NBN could allow a rural GP to tap into a specialist’s advice and expertise so they could complete procedures themselves.

“The more you can get the treatment out there where it’s needed, the cheaper it will be and much more convenient for those individuals too,” he said.

Mr Willett added that Charles Sturt was now “an exciting place” that had no peer in regional Australia, aside from James Cook University in north Queensland.