Investment in a medical school at Magee will result in an £8 to the £1 boost for the local economy and help stanch the flow of emigrating youth by encouraging would-be doctors to train and put down roots in Derry.
That’s according to MLAs who supported Mark H. Durkan’s Private Members’ Motion at Stormont on Tuesday that called on the Executive to
work towards the establishment of a medical school in the North West.
Mr Durkan, outlining the numerous benefits that a medical school at Magee would bring, including an alleviation of the Western Trust’s structural dependance on locum doctors which is projected to rise to £16m this year, said it would also bring a much-needed boost to the Derry economy generally.
He said: “It has long been accepted that the expansion of the university is key to the economic regeneration of the North West. What needs to be accepted by the Executive is the need to do something about it. Supporting the motion and making this proposal happen will be a clear step in the right direction. There is research that demonstrates that every £1 spent on a medical school generates £8·50 in the wider economy, and Derry is a city that is in desperate need of a boost like that.”
Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney, backing the motion, welcomed the Ulster University’s appointment of a full-time senior person in Professor Hugh McKenna to bring forward plan fro what will hopefully become a “postgraduate-entry school”.
Mr McCartney said the advantage of such a facility would be that it would keep people in the city for a long-time.
“The innovation around this is the idea that it will be a postgraduate-entry school.
“The university, in presenting that, gave all the pluses around that and said clearly that one of the things, particularly at postgraduate entry in medical schools and in other courses, from experiences elsewhere, is the idea of what they call the 20:20 rule - people stay within 20 miles of where they were educated for 20 years. That is a big plus,” he said.
DUP MLA Gary Middleton said: “Research shows that the majority of people stay to train and work in the place where they study at university.
“That is what we want to try to help address the issues in the west. When medical staff and doctors are trained, we want them to stay, because that will help address the shortages.”
SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood also said a medical school would prevent us haemorrhaging more young people to other parts of Ireland, Britain and elsewhere.
“If someone goes to a university, it is very likely that they will settle down and stay within 20 miles of that university. In fact, 80 per cent of people who leave Derry or Belfast and go to Manchester or Liverpool end up living within 20 miles of that area.
“Obviously, we can all understand how that works. People settle down, get a job and stay there. We are losing that to our economy.
“We are losing over 30 per cent of our young people who are going to university at age 18.”
People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann said the fact Derry doesn’t already have a medical school is a legacy of discrimination.
“This, too, is a legacy issue. It is part of the legacy of sectarian discrimination against Derry under the old Stormont Parliament.
“It is a legacy issue that has to be remedied in the same way as all the others. Let us do it, and, as I say, if this pledge does not work out, the game is not over.”