ORANGE, AAP – A rural medical school in central west NSW will keep doctors in the bush and address “major equity” health problems in country Australia, Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce says.

Mr Joyce officially opened the School of Rural Medicine at Charles Sturt University in Orange on Friday, telling medical students they will improve the lives of people in rural and outback areas.

He said there was only one doctor to every 4000 people in his New England electorate, in NSW, and one doctor to every 6000 people in the Mallee, in regional Victoria.

“We have a problem, a major equity problem, which must be solved,” Mr Joyce said.

“We don’t get the healthcare they get down the hill at Sydney, so they live longer than us.

“But we live longer than the people out at Bre (Brewarrina) and at Tibooburra and White Cliffs and Bourke. They don’t live as long as us.

“So we have an obligation to meet them and a responsibility to look after those behind us. And this is where it comes in.”

The development of the medical school has been controversial, with several doctors’ groups saying it does not address the shortage of postgraduate places, thereby forcing graduates to train in city hospitals.

Charles Sturt University vice-chancellor Professor Renee Leon said the sole aim of the school, run in partnership with the University of Western Sydney, is to benefit regional Australia.

“This program is built on evidence that has consistently demonstrated that enabling regional students to study medicine in regional locations is the most successful strategy to build a sustainable regional medical workforce.”