Pinnacle supports calls for third medical school based in Waikato

06 July 2023

Jo Scott-Jones, clinical director.

Pinnacle supports and is excited by the potential establishment of a third medical school through Waikato University.

On the heels of the government’s launch of its health workforce plan this week which, among other initiatives aims to increase the current number of medical school places in Aotearoa New Zealand annually by 50, National announced its commitment to a third medical school to be established in Hamilton.

Dr. Jo Scott-Jones, Pinnacle's clinical director, emphasises the significance of a third medical school as one of many solutions needed to address a dire problem.

"The workforce situation in primary care is desperate. Doctors are under immense pressure, often having to prioritise their patients' wellbeing at the expense of their own."

Statistics from the RNZCGP reveal that 90 percent of doctors surveyed in 2022 agree the system forces them to make personal sacrifices.

Scott-Jones says as the demand for doctors continues to rise, the burden on the healthcare workforce intensifies, with professionals departing from practices. He highlights the potential domino effect resulting from the loss of a single general practitioner in a small community, adversely impacting surrounding practices and hospitals.

“The proposed third medical school, with its unique approach to graduate entry and community-focused training, holds the potential to be a transformative solution to the acute medical workforce shortage.”

Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora's health workforce plan, accompanied for the first time by data, shows the existing workforce gap and projects a further widening by 2032 unless there is urgent intervention.

“There are specific challenges in workforce allocation, particularly in rural areas and certain specialties, which makes Waikato, with its significant rural population, a suitable base for the third medical school.

“Graduates are more likely to be established in the community already, and providing an expanded option for students from a range of backgrounds to study medicine will increase the diversity of our workforce.”

He says the next big game changer that needs to be addressed is achieving parity in working condition for medically trained people who specialise in community-based care with those who choose hospital-based specialities.

Scott-Jones says Pinnacle will collaborate with the incoming government, ensuring the implementation of policies that enhance education and training, and prioritises wellbeing for the future health workforce.

“A third medical school won’t be quickly stood up, but it’s only by addressing critical workforce challenges that New Zealand can create a sustainable and inclusive healthcare system, placing the wellbeing of both patients and healthcare professionals at the forefront.”