Third medical school looks unlikely: profs

A review looking at whether New Zealand needs a third medical school looks set to recommend keeping two schools, says Prof Des Gorman, executive chairman of a high-powered health committee.

Prof Gorman stepped down as head of Auckland's medical school to chair Health Workforce New Zealand.

Part of its brief is to advise the Government how to alleviate the country's chronic doctor shortage.

Prof Gorman said an HWNZ project team was undertaking a literature review focused on the best means of training and retaining doctors, including the possibility of another medical school, perhaps aimed solely at graduates.

So far, the team's findings pointed to endorsing keeping two schools, Auckland and Otago.

Prof Gorman said it was no secret other universities wanted to establish their own schools, to attract lucrative research funds.

"Everyone wants a medical school."

A move to establish a third medical school would need to show it was cost-effective, because of the large setup costs.

Changes to training had to take close account of where shortages were.

"[New Zealand needs to] train more and retain more GPs, and less cardiologists."

Finding enough quality teaching staff for three medical schools could also be an issue.

While graduate-entrance medical schools were common overseas, Prof Gorman was not convinced establishing a graduate school would solve the shortage issue in New Zealand.

It was important to canvass the matter fully, so it would not need to be reconsidered in a few years, Prof Gorman said.

Prof Gorman said both Auckland and Dunedin punched above their weight internationally.

The University of Otago's social and preventive medicine, and neuroscience, were both world-class, and defied the city's tiny population.

He dismissed the notion that if Dunedin lost neurosurgery it would harm the medical school, as learning related to the specialty was minimal.

"Who gives a flying toss whether you have neurosurgery or not [in terms of the medical school]?

"It's no big deal."

University of Otago faculty of medicine dean Prof Don Roberton, who is also on the HWNZ project team, said a third medical school was not needed, as Otago and Auckland could train more students.

Prof Roberton, who emphasised he was speaking on behalf of the medical school, not the project team, said in the past two years both schools had worked with the Government to increase student numbers.

This would continue for the next two to three years.

"There is not a need to establish a further medical school to achieve these increases in numbers."


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