The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says Gippsland students are missing out on the chance to study medicine because Monash University is not committed to the region.
Mr Chester has called on Monash University to make a long-term commitment to training medical students in Gippsland – or leave the region altogether – and allow another provider to service the needs of local students.
Mr Chester has told Federal Parliament that Monash University’s city-based senior staff had made policy decisions which undermined local students seeking to become doctors.
“Local doctors and community members have expressed a strong concern about the reduction in local training opportunities for students from the Monash Gippsland medical school,” Mr Chester told Parliament.
“Students are simply begging us to have the opportunity to stay in their own homes, to study, to fulfil their ambitions, to become a doctor and to practise in regional areas like Gippsland.”
Mr Chester said his request of Monash “is pretty simple: Monash University, get serious, or get out.”
“This gradual withdrawal from the region is harming student pathways and threatening some successful community partnerships which have been built up for the best part of 20 years,” Mr Chester said.
Monash University’s current policy is that only students who have graduated from a Monash University undergraduate degree can be considered for entry into a post graduate degree at Churchill.
“That means that any student from Gippsland who has a desire to study medicine and has the capacity to achieve a good score in their VCE can’t study medicine in our community,” Mr Chester said.
“They need to first move away for three years to attend the Clayton campus of Monash University and then potentially return at some later date to go to the Churchill campus. We are creating another barrier to country kids.”
As a separate issue, Mr Chester said Monash was also reducing the number of students and the length of time which they train in East Gippsland as part of the Monash University Rural Health Bairnsdale teaching program.
“The number of fourth year students involved in the Bairnsdale program for 2019 has already been reduced from 10 to six. The students will be spending only one semester in the region rather than the whole year, and they will have less involvement in local hospitals because of the change in the model of the curriculum delivery,” Mr Chester said
“The community is becoming increasingly angered and frustrated by the behaviour of Monash University not just in Churchill and Latrobe Valley but also right throughout East Gippsland.
“We have a shortage of health professionals in regional areas. We know that students who come from regional backgrounds, or who do their clinical placement in regional areas, are more likely to return to those regional areas in the future.
“Here we have Monash University, a big city university, treating Gippslanders like their poor cousins.
“I say to Monash University: either commit to Gippsland or get out of the way and let another university that’s prepared to invest in regional students take it on.”