A trio of Nationals politicians swept into the University of Melbourne’s Shepparton clinical school last week to announce 20 new doctor training places.
Senator Bridget McKenzie, Deputy Nationals leader and Rural Health Minister, joined Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum to make the announcement.
Rounding out the group was the Nationals’ federal treasurer and aspiring state member for Shepparton Peter Schwarz.
All three claimed credit for helping to unlock $95million for the Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network announced in the federal budget.
Raised in Benalla, Senator McKenzie said one of the key problems to keeping doctors in the bush was finding local candidates for training.
‘‘If you’re a country kid yourself you’re more likely to not view living in the country as a deficit,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s fantastic; it’s going to be a transformational suite of measures that for the first time is going to address in an evidence-based way the barriers that have stopped doctors, in particular, from practising in the region.’’
One of the key statements to come out of the announcement, expressed by everyone in the room including Professor Julian Wright, head of University of Melbourne’s Department of Rural Health, was that doctors trained regionally were more likely to practise regionally, often because they threw down local roots while studying.
Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Adam Coltzau agreed with the sentiment, saying 70 to 80 per cent of doctors trained in regions stayed in regions.
‘‘One of the big factors is that medical students fall in love and get married, giving them that tangible link to the region they grow to love,’’ Dr Coltzau said.
The 20 places become available in Shepparton in 2021.
‘‘This result has come from hard work and unwavering dedication by National party ministers, who have been fighting for many years to deliver this network,’’ Mr Drum said.
‘‘The new network will deliver great results for the Goulburn Valley and Shepparton.’’