Uni wants to be involved in analysis

The Otago Medical School building in Great King St. PHOTO: ODT FILES
The Otago Medical School building in Great King St. PHOTO: ODT FILES
The University of Otago is pleased government coalition negotiations mean there will now be a "cost-benefit analysis" for any future medical school and wants to be involved in it.

During the election campaign the National Party promised, if elected, to establish a third medical school at the University of Waikato.

The first intake was proposed for 2027.

However, as part of its coalition agreement with Act New Zealand, National has agreed that "a full cost-benefit analysis must be presented before any binding agreement is made with respect to the Waikato medical school".

Otago University acting vice-chancellor Prof Richard Blaikie said it welcomed the requirement for an analysis to be completed before any agreement was entered into.

"Our expectation is that in order to be robust, a full cost-benefit analysis would include evaluating the Waikato option [with updated financials] against the alternative option of investing in additional capacity at the existing medical schools.

"An analysis that does this is inevitably going to require significant involvement and input from the University of Otago."

National previously promised to invest about $300million in capital towards the third medical school if elected.

University of Waikato vice-chancellor Prof Neil Quigley, who has campaigned for the third medical school for several years, was comfortable about the announcement.

"The requirement to complete a cost-benefit analysis before the government would commit to investment for the Waikato medical school is entirely reasonable and as expected.

"A full business case and cost-benefit analysis was completed when the Waikato school was first proposed in 2016 and 2017, but costs have increased and the shortage of doctors has become more acute since then, so key parameters of the analysis need to be updated."

After the general election, but prior to the finalisation of the coalition agreement, Otago University acting vice-chancellor Prof Helen Nicholson said the university believed the additional medical places required for the country could potentially be provided more quickly and at a significantly lower cost by investing in additional capacity at the existing medical schools.

"We believe there should be an open and robust process that allows the case to be made for this as an alternative option — for both options to be assessed and presented to the government for a transparent, evidence-based decision."

The Otago Daily Times contacted the National Party yesterday to ask when the cost-benefit analysis would likely take place, and who or what would be involved — whether it meant hopes for the proposed school to have its first student cohort by 2027 would be less likely, whether it was disappointing to not get the proposal totally over the line, and what alternatives National had to addressing the shortage of the doctors and medical professionals, particularly in rural areas.

No-one was available for comment before deadline.