Petty politics puts world-class university hospital at risk
WORLD-CLASS specialists, better care, less medical travel and our kids' futures are all on the line due to a Federal-State slanging match over the Coast's new hospital.
The stoush over 15 education placements between the two tiers of government continued this week amidst calls from health and education experts to hurry up and deliver the promised medical school.
University of the Sunshine Coast Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Hill said failure to have a complete medical school at the new hospital would end up costing families and students tens of thousands of dollars as students were forced to move away for part of their medical school studies before coming back to the Coast to finish.
"As long as we get a full medical school in the new hospital so that Sunshine Coast residents don't have to leave the Sunshine Coast to do medicine (we don't care where the places come from)," Prof Hill said.
"For most of our families it's going to cost you an extra $20,000 a year to go and live in a capital city and for many people that's just not viable.
"My understanding is that if additional (training) places don't become available, it certainly won't be a full medical school and it might be a staging post for advanced-level students."
Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service chief executive Kevin Hegarty said a full medical school added to the capacity and research ability of the hospital, which is due to open in April.
He said having full research, teaching and practising capacity would help attract the best specialists to the facility in new fields being offered, like neurosurgery, to complement other skilled specialists already in the region in other fields.
Mr Hegarty said it would also deliver a broader range of healthcare services to future patients with a wider variety of specialists based at the new hospital.
"It changes the overall education capacity of the Sunshine Coast," Mr Hegarty said.
Fairfax MP Ted O'Brien has called on his Coalition Government to match the State Government's 50/50, four-year funding promise, believed to be more than $1.5 million in total, for the extra 15 medical school places needed on the Sunshine Coast to make Griffith University's medical school proposal economically viable.
But as Mr O'Brien's Fisher colleague Andrew Wallace pointed out, new places won't be created, they need to be shifted from placements at other universities.
There is a cap on the number of training places that can be created in Australia with an oversupply of doctors predicted.
"It's not about money," Mr Wallace said, hopeful a placement shuffle would happen next year.
However Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham is refusing to give the additional medical training placements unless the State Government guarantees it, in turn, will create further training placements, specifically for specialists.
Specialist students are trained through federal-funding supported medical colleges. However, they require placements in state hospitals as part of their studies.
State Health Minister Cameron Dick said he'd attempted to break the deadlock for about a year.
Mr Dick said he'd done all he could to secure the 15 additional medical school places, committing to 50% funding to the places, which are normally Commonwealth-funded.
He said he guaranteed "a place for every student graduating from the medical school in Queensland's Intern Training Program" and told the Daily he'd also committed to trying to find as many specialist placements as possible.
"It's not just about healthcare, this is about... the Sunshine Coast as having a knowledge-based economy as well," Mr Dick said.
Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley said the redistribution of places was a key challenge, but called on the State Government to be more collaborative.
New Sunshine Coast Local Medical Association president Dr Roger Faint said they would like to see the issue resolved quickly and a full medical school established "for the betterment of the health district".