Federal Coalition Government announces $60m for rural health training in SA

The Hon Dr David Gillespie MP

Minister for Regional Health

Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment

Deputy Leader of the House

The Federal Coalition Government has today announced more than $60 million will be invested in regional and rural medical and health training in South Australia, building the capacity and viability of health services in the regions.

Federal Regional Health Minister, Dr David Gillespie said three universities – Flinders University, the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia – would share in the funding to enable hundreds of medical students, nurses, midwives and dentists each year to undertake their training in regional and rural SA.

Dr Gillespie said the Federal Coalition Government’s Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training (RHMT) program, which funded the investment into the three local universities, is providing a two-fold benefit for patients in the bush.

“We’re increasing our overall investment in the program because it has been a key driver to bringing medical, nursing and allied health students to the bush. Without this program, these students would have undertaken all their training in Adelaide,” Dr Gillespie, a former regional doctor, said.

“Instead, they are able to provide a great service to regional and rural communities by increasing access to healthcare for patients and creating or maintaining links to rural communities.

“The rural health training program brings students to these areas, where they see real patients under supervision and get a full hands-on experience, which as a former doctor I know is invaluable.”

Dr Gillespie said the three SA universities taking part in RHMT operate clinical training placements in 14 towns within the state, and Broken Hill:

  • Flinders University has major training sites at Renmark, Mount Gambier, Nuriootpa, Victor Harbor and Murray Bridge.
  • the University of Adelaide (UoA) provides training in Port Lincoln, Whyalla, Port Augusta, Port Pirie, Broken Hill, Angaston, Kadina, Mount Barker, Clare, and Mount Gambier.
  • the University of South Australia (UniSA) has major training sites in Whyalla, Port Augusta, Port Pirie, Port Lincoln, Kapunda, Mount Barker, Murray Bridge, and Mount Gambier.

In another boost for rural and regional communities under the RHMT program, Flinders University’s rural training programs employed 63 staff, the UoA employed 60 staff in rural centres, and the UniSA had 31 staff based in rural and remote locations in 2021.

“Each of the training facilities’ staff also add to the local health capability in these towns,” he said.

Dr Gillespie said during the 2020 calendar year, the three universities and RHMT program supported 81 medical students in clinical placements lasting 12 months each.

In addition, there was one six-month medical placement and 155 short term medical placements, and more than 1,380 placements for student nurses, midwives, and allied health professionals. The UoA also supported 23 dental training placements totalling more than 115 weeks in 2020.

“Even greater benefits will emerge in the medium term, as many of these trainees will either stay where they have become part of the community or choose to work in another regional or rural area,” Dr Gillespie said.

“Over time, this and the Government’s other programs for regional and rural health will reduce the imbalance between city and country, in terms of access to health care and health outcomes.”

The RHMT Program aims to increase the number of health professionals working and training in regional, rural and remote Australia to improve access to health care. The funding announced today is for 2022-2024 and will enable the three universities to continue to operate and improve their RHMT facilities.

The RHMT program is part of the Coalition Government’s $550 million 10-year Stronger Rural Health Strategy, announced in the 2018-19 Budget.

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