New scholarship scheme announced for health professionals in Australia

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Registered Nurse Rebecca Moak poses for a photo in trauma center of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi October 4, 2013. Reuters/Jonathan Bachman

A new scholarship scheme has been announced in Australia. It would serve as support for health professionals working in both rural and regional areas. The program is aimed at helping them advance their skills and capabilities.

David Gillespie, assistant minister for health, announced the new scholarship program on Tuesday at the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health campus. He said the consortium of Rural Workforce Agencies (RWAs), led by Health Workforce Queensland, will administer the scheme.

“This new Health Workforce Scholarship Program will deliver better outcomes and return on investment in terms of health outcomes for patients,” Gillespie declared, according to a press release posted at the Department of Health website. He added that scholarships will be allocated based on the needs of communities including allied health professionals, GPS, nurses or dentists.

Meanwhile, CEO of the NSW Rural Doctors Network Richard Colbran assured that RWAs welcome the initiatives, and that they were open to working closely with local and state governments, planning groups and Primary Health Networks. The RWAs were looking forward to determine what skills are needed.

Colbran acknowledged that the latest initiatives from the government are centred on adding more education and training opportunities for rural primary health workforce. “RWAs will work to ensure a cohesive approach to building a sustainable, appropriately skilled workforce that will facilitate greater access to health services for regional, rural and remote communities across Australia,” he said.

The new scholarship scheme is part of the government’s efforts in investing in the future supply and delivery of the health workforce. Gillespie said they are very committed to the improvements of rural health services and outcomes. He also revealed that the consortium of RWAs would deliver the John Flynn Placement Program, which arranges placements of students with rural doctor mentors.

According to Gillespie, the John Flynn Placement Program offers a unique experience for students to learn about how it is to be a rural doctor and form connections with a rural community. Those who want to learn more about this new program are advised to contact the Minister's Office on 0435 686 313.

In other news, the SA Government has declared it would pass “Gayle’s Law,” which would require rural health professionals to be accompanied by a colleague for patient call-outs. The announcement was made in the wake of Outback nurse Gayle Woodford’s murder. Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore said security improvements for Outback nurses must be a priority, The Advertiser reports.

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