Senator Bridget McKenzie and Nationals Candidate Anne Webster.

By JOHN DOOLEY

SOME good medicine was administered to Monash University’s Rural Health School in the form of a $5.34million injection of funds toward capital works to assist the roll-out of their end-to-end training for rural medical students.

The Federal funding package will enable Monash to enhance and modify its existing graduate-entry program to specifically target students whose intention is to practise rurally.

The money will boost the university’s eight rural clinical teaching sites, and be used to support the four-year graduate-entry program across the Mildura, Bendigo and the Loddon-Mallee hospital and health regions.

The capital works funding will be used to purchase student accommodation in Mildura and Bendigo, and will also fund the renovation of the teaching and learning spaces at the Swan Hill District Hospital.

Minister for Regional Services, Senator Bridget McKenzie, who was in Mildura on Wednesday to make the announcement, said that it was a very exciting development for Mildura, Swan Hill, Bendigo and the surrounding region.

“It is equally exciting for Australians throughout this region, and beyond. While enough doctors graduate in Australia, they’re not practising in rural areas,” she said.

“Unfortunately they are all practising in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney – not enough are out in places like Mildura, and other rural locations.”

The Minister said that to address that issue, the Government in the last Federal Budget announced the $550million ‘Stronger Rural Health’ package, under which a commitment was made to set up five new end-to-end medical schools in the Murray-Darling Basin region, of which Mildura is one.

“This is really ‘flipping’ the model of medical training for the first time in this country,” Minister McKenzie said.

“Traditionally you would be at an urban university campus, and on occasions you might go out to the regions to do some training during those study years.

“What we are doing is flipping that model so that you are embedded and based in regional communities, and yes, you may have to go back to Melbourne sometimes, but not for a long time.

“The research shows that there are two reasons why country students selected into programs are going to end up practising in the regions and country communities.

“One, you’re from the country and you naturally see the regions as a great place to live, work and raise a family.

“The second reason is because you spend the majority of your training in regional communities, and that fosters a 70 percent retention rate.”

Minister McKenzie said the government has put $74million on the table for the regional medical schools, and importantly, part of the $5.34million is to provide additional student accommodation in Mildura to allow for the increased number of students who will be studying here.

“There will be 30 new students in the program by 2021, and as a result of the Stronger Rural Health Strategy, the government envisages, and has modelled, that over the next 10 years our changes to medical training will result in an additional 3000 doctors practising out in regional communities, and 3000 nurses and hundreds of allied health professionals, and so we are incredibly excited about how this is going to work.”

Monash graduate Dr Madeleine Leung said studying and working in a rural area provides students with a lot of opportunities that you don’t get anywhere else.

“It offers opportunities to be at the forefront of your patients, your medicine and your learning,” she said.

“People do medicine for one of two reasons, either they want to help people, or they really like learning. Rural areas are where you do both of those things best.

“Therefore, anything that enhances opportunities for more students to come to the regions like Mildura is a great thing and it’s nice to see that this is being backed.”

Monash University’s Rural Health School will form part of the new Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network, which the Coalition Government is establishing in regional centres in New South Wales and Victoria.