Health and medical students in Whyalla and locations throughout rural and regional areas of South Australia will receive greater opportunities to undertake their training, as part of a federal initiative.
The federal government will be providing $487.2 million in funding to support training opportunities for medical, nursing and, midwifery, dental and allied health students through through the Coalition’s Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training (RHMT) program.
The University of South Australia, which operates the Whyalla campus, will receive $13.1 million of this funding.
Assistant Minister for Rural Health, Dr David Gillespie, visited the University of South Australia’s Department of Rural Health (DRH) in Whyalla with Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey on Tuesday.
Dr Gillespie said it was ‘vital’ that all Australians have access to fist rate health services, regardless of where they live.
“Our Government is committed to ensuring that we have an adequate number of health professionals in all of our rural and regional communities.
“Part of this is ensuring that our health students receive the best opportunities to train outside the major cities. The evidence is there – students who train in rural areas are more likely to stay and work there.”
Department of Rural Health Project Director Martin Jones said the funding would allow UniSA to double the amount of students visiting rural areas for training.
“It will allow us to provide innovative learning experiences for the future workforce and give students a showcase of the benefits of becoming a rural practitioner,” he said.
“It will let us work with aboriginal communities to grow additional aboriginal learning experiences and work with aged care facilities to show the benefits of working with the older age population.”
“There’s wins all over out of this additional investment because we’ll get more young people into our community and give them the experience they wouldn’t get if they did their placement in Adelaide.”
Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey said Australia had a history of ‘under training’ health students, but that trend was coming to an end.
“Our training system is now delivering far more graduates than it did earlier, the big challenge is about how we get people to come out in rural areas,” he said.
“For many students its a more fulfilling experience to come up to places like Whyalla to spend a period of time up here and experience what it’s like living in the country.”
“They deal with a far wider range of complications on a daily basis while in the city you usually refer things off and get someone who is a specialist in that area – you get better experience in your work.”
The Whyalla Campus currently has upwards of 55 nursing students enrolled across all years, and over 60 students enrolled in the social work program.
At Whyalla, over 70 UniSA students have completed placements in disciplines such as nursing, social work, occupational therapy and podiatry between January and August this year.
Upwards of 10 additional students from Flinders and Adelaide Universities, supported by the UniSA’s DRH, have also completed placements in Whyalla.
Since 2011, the University of South Australia DRH has provided support to a total of 2,400 students and delivered 12,935 rural clinical placement weeks.
“It’s fantastic to see that health students are completing their clinical placements in rural areas, it’s even more heartening to see that over 28 per cent of medical students enrolled at RHMT Universities are from a rural background themselves,” Dr Gillespie said.
A further three University Departments of Rural Health will be established across Australia to open up new opportunities for nursing and allied health students to train in rural areas.
The Department of Health will run a competitive process in late 2016 to decide the fund holders for the new sites, with activity expected to begin in the 2017 academic year.