THE federal government will split $7 million between the La Trobe University campuses in Wodonga and Bendigo in a bid to retain more medical students in regional areas when they graduate.
A three-year undergraduate biomedical degree will kick off at the Wodonga campus next year as part of an overall $74 million investment in the Murray-Darling medical schools network announced in this year’s federal budget.
The undergraduate course will provide a pathway for 15 students every year into the University of Melbourne’s new doctor of medicine (rural) degree based at Shepparton.
Once all medical schools are operating about 140 students will begin medical studies across the Murray-Darling region each year in a move minister for regional services and decentralisation, Senator Bridget McKenzie, believes will ultimately lead to more doctors staying in the country.
“For the first time there will be end-to-end training for our medical schools graduates here in North-East Victoria,” she said.
“We know we’ve got a maldistribution of doctors in this country.
“Unfortunately for us living out in the country they are all practising in Melbourne and Sydney with a few on the Gold Coast.
“As a government we’ve been very concerned that people living out in regional and rural Australia haven’t had the access to high-quality domestically trained doctors and allied health professionals as they should have.
“It is why we’ve decided to flip the model.”
The funding includes $2.6 million for capital works to refurbish the present laboratory, administrative and teaching facilities at Wodonga and Bendigo campuses.
Professor Richard Speed said La Trobe had been lobbying government for this program for years and believed the 70 per cent of nurses, teachers and accountants presently studying and then staying in regional areas can be replicated.
“It means we are not losing our best and brightest instantly down to Melbourne,” he said.
Meanwhile, Senator Bridget McKenzie will return to the North-East on Sunday for a youth mental health announcement in Wangaratta.