$5m for med school business case

More than $5million is set aside for a business case towards a third medical school at the University of Waikato in the Budget, despite critics suggesting it is on shaky ground.

The announcement was greeted with muffled cheers from the University of Otago and right-wing commentator Matthew Hooton, who have argued the medical schools in Dunedin and Auckland could deliver more doctors more efficiently.

During the 2023 general election campaign, National campaigned on a third medical school to be based at the University of Waikato.

The third medical school would have a focus on training rural GPs.

It would receive about $300m in government funding to get it off the ground and ready for its first intake in 2027.

The Otago Medical School building in Great King St. PHOTO: ODT FILES
The Otago Medical School building in Great King St. PHOTO: ODT FILES
But as part of its coalition agreement with Act New Zealand, the National Party agreed that "a full cost-benefit analysis must be presented before any binding agreement is made ...".

Yesterday’s Budget set aside $5m over two years towards the business case.

Mr Hooton remained confident the proposal was dead in the water.

"Five million dollars is a small price to pay to kill off the ridiculous Waikato proposal once and for all."

Labour health spokeswoman Dr Ayesha Verrall questioned the need for a business case.

"It’s obvious that building a new medical school will cost more than asking the existing schools to train more. I can tell the government that for free.”

An Otago University spokeswoman welcomed the business case, but reiterated the university believed the existing medical schools could meet the requirements for additional medical training nationally, without the same level of cost and risk as a third medical school would pose.

Meanwhile, the Budget sets aside $22m to train 25 more doctors each year through the existing medical schools at Otago and Auckland universities.

"The extra 25 places for 2025 follows 50 extra places provided by the current Government for 2024. As was the case with the 2024 places, the apportionment of these places between Otago and Auckland will be determined in due course.’