A two-year education program that will create incentives for allied health professionals to work in regional areas and better equip them with the skills needed for rural practice was today announced in Dubbo.
Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government, Mark Coulton said the Allied Health Rural Generalist Workforce and Education Scheme will drive improvements in allied health recruitment and retention rates in the regions and provide professional development opportunities for allied health professionals.
“Allied health professionals in regional areas can be dealing with a baby one minute, and then a frail or aged person the next, so this scheme is about improving their capabilities to better deal with the varied nature of rural work,” Minister Coulton said.
“The program will boost the capability of graduates or those already working in the field, by teaching them skills on how to manage and where to find more support for complex patients, how to consult via telehealth and how they can access additional services for patients who may need it.
“A broad range of rural allied health service providers working in primary health care, aged care and disability sectors will benefit, including nutrition and dietetics, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physiotherapy, podiatry, radiography, speech pathology, psychology and social work.”
Acting CEO of Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health (SARRAH), Cath Maloney said allied health professionals are university trained specialists who play a major role in preventing, diagnosing and treating illness and injury and often work closely with their health professional colleagues, including doctors and nurses.
“They work in every health setting – hospitals, community health, private practice, primary care, aged care, disability and other services and make up about a quarter of the total health workforce. They are a vital part of our health service mix,” Ms Maloney said.
“This scheme is a concrete way to ensure that allied health professionals who want to work in the bush are better supported.”
Allied Health portfolio manager at Marathon Health, Julie Cullenward said the pathway gives young allied health professionals the chance to develop the specific skills that will make them successful in working in rural and remote setting, which areas of high need.
“Collaboration, working in a culturally safe way in community, and delegating appropriate work to therapy assistants are vital skills that support people to achieve their goals in rural and remote settings around Australia,” Ms Cullenward said.
“We are thrilled our young therapists will have this opportunity and know it will improve outcomes for our people in the bush.”
Minister Coulton said a similar scheme was already operating in the state health system, but would expanded from today to include rural private practice and non-government organisations.
“This scheme compliments the work being undertaken by the Rural Health Commissioner, Professor Paul Worley, who will soon present his advice to government on ways to improve the quality, access and distribution of allied health services in regional, rural and remote Australia,” he said.
Minister Coulton said the $3.2 million Liberal and National Government investment would enable 20 level one scholarships valued at $10,000 and 20 level two scholarships valued at $28,000 to be offered initially at James Cook University, with more universities expected to join.
Funding is also available to help employers cover back-filling positions and provide travel and accommodation for students to attend training.