A Waikato medical school wouldn’t be a priority under Labour.
The proposal is for future doctors from rural communities to be selected for four years of training – much of that out of the city environment.
The idea is driven by two major Waikato players – the university and the district health board – and has the full support of Waikato mayors and a $5 million pledge from Sir Owen Glenn.
But it has faced an apparent counter-bid from the country’s existing medical schools in Auckland and Dunedin and Labour leader Andrew Little says his party has other priorities for precious health dollars.
The comments follow lukewarm receptions from local Labour list MP Sue Moroney and education spokesman Chris Hipkins.
“I just know that the investment required to get a medical faculty up and running and attract the academic community to go with it is a big ask,” Little said.
New Zealand is clearly short of doctors in rural areas, he said, but he’s cautious.
“I haven’t seen any of their paperwork … but for a country of 4.7 million people, with two med schools at the moment, I would need to be convinced that there’s benefit not just to Waikato University but to New Zealand generally. That’s not to say they can’t prove that case.”
I think Labour are wise is being skeptical. While it is good to have a focus on rural health, it is very unclear that we need a third medical school, or that Waikato could attract the expertise to run one.
I think part of this is a desire by Waikato to gain funding. Medical schools bring in immense levels of funding – not just for the teaching, but also for the research that goes with it. So the proposal is great for Waikato University. It would produce some benefits to the wider community, but I am doubtful anywhere near the $100 million cost.