Budget unlocks medical training for Shepparton

May 10, 2018

About $95.4 million has been set aside in the Federal Budget to train and retain more doctors in the bush.

Shepparton’s Melbourne University campus and La Trobe University are set to be the major beneficiaries of the new Murray Darling Medical School network.

Up to 140 medical training positions will be allocated to rural and regional Victoria with half of these places made available to La Trobe University students in Bendigo and Albury/Wodonga.

Committee for Greater Shepparton chief Sam Birrell welcomed the initiative as a ‘‘good collaboration’’ with ‘‘strong potential for regional end to end degrees’’.

‘‘And perhaps a lead into better retention of medical professionals in regional areas.’’

While he was still keen to see the details of the proposal, C4GS chair Rob Priestly said the inclusion of Shepparton in plans for regional medical training school ‘‘could be a great result’’.

Shepparton’s Rural Clinical School head and Professor of Medicine Julian Wright said the network had been mooted for more than a decade.

‘‘Everyone has been working hard behind the scenes to put together the plan,’’ he said.

‘‘This is great news for Shepparton and goes to show everyone is confident in what we’re doing.’’

Previously, after completing an undergraduate degree students were forced to do the first year of their Masters degree at a city campus.

Now medical students would be able to do their entire post-graduate degree in Shepparton, Professor Wright said.

Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum said regional medical students ‘‘now have pathways’’ to study in the regions. It marked the first time students could entertain undertaking tertiary medical training in regional Victoria.

La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor John Dewar welcomed the creation of the end-to-end medical program designed to solve Victoria’s rural doctor shortage.

‘‘This is welcome news for people living in regional Victoria who finally have a solution to this decades-old challenge,’’ Professor Dewar said.

He paid tribute to the University of Melbourne in agreeing to reallocate places from its city campus to Shepparton.

From 2020, 30 more medical students will be based in Shepparton following a selection process aimed to encourage students with rural backgrounds.

‘‘It’s the perfect solution because at the moment doctors aren’t being distributed properly,’’ Professor Wright said. It is anticipated the money set aside in the budget will also include the building of additional student accommodation in Shepparton.

University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis said the university was proud to be playing its part. ‘‘We believe further improvements could be made to develop viable postgraduate specialist training programs in the region, so doctors can remain in those areas while pursuing the next level of their career.’’

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