Veteran doctor Robert Byrne joins new push for Riverina Medical School

Doctor Robert Byrne
Doctor Robert Byrne

A rising number of medical job vacancies has renewed a Riverina doctor’s call for a local medical school.

Job-search site Seek.com.au had 128 vacancies listed for the Riverina and Adzuna.com.au had 144, from nurses to midwives and mental health workers.

Physiotherapy, occupational therapy and rehabilitation vacancies were the most common, followed by general medical, surgical and imaging jobs. Close to 40 jobs advertised paid more than $100,000.

Prominent Leeton GP Robert Byrne, a Riverina doctor for more than 50 years, said one of the problems was getting students to stay in the area.

“We’ve been able to get students to come to the Riverina and train but they haven’t stuck,” Dr Byrne said.

“I was born in Young and educated at Cootamundra, so I’m a country boy who’s worked in the area, it’s not like it was a trip to Mars for me.

“With so many professionals born and bred in the city, the country can be seen as somewhere totally unfamiliar.”

The mooted Riverina Medical School was first suggested by federal MP Michael McCormack in 2013, but was passed over in favour of a Central Coast facility in last year’s budget.

However, the federal health and education departments are conducting a stocktake of medical students and where they’re from, which will form part of a Cabinet recommendation after April.

Last week, Charles Sturt University vice-chancellor Andrew Vann said “city elites” were reaping the rewards in medical training, with nine out of 10 new schools located in metropolitan areas.

With so many professionals born and bred in the city, the country can be seen as somewhere totally unfamiliar.

Dr Robert Byrne

“Over this period our rural and regional communities have continued to suffer doctor shortages and reduced access to necessary care, which has resulted in increased rates of chronic disease and lower life expectancy,” Professor Vann said.