5 Sep 2011

New bid to attract health workers to rural areas

9:56 am on 5 September 2011

Medical students will train with nurses and other health professionals for the first time, in the latest bid to attract graduates to rural and provincial areas.

A new programme beginning next year will involve Auckland and Otago universities training about 310 health workers at Whakatane and Gisborne hospitals.

The universities have been training doctors for years in rural programmes to encourage them to return to those areas, but training to date has been separate for different professional groups.

Now, the Government is to pay $4.5 million over three years to combine the training of new doctors, nurses, dentists and physiotherapists.

It says the idea is to expand training so workers become adept at operating in the kind of multi-professional teams expected to deliver health in future.

Expansion of voluntary bonding scheme tipped

The Government has indicated it may further expand the voluntary bonding scheme for doctors, midwives, nurses and other health workers.

The scheme, which was introduced in 2009, offers student debt write-offs or cash incentives in return for graduates working in hard-to-staff areas or specialities.

Health Minister, Tony Ryall, says he is keen to address rural health workforce needs, and the voluntary bonding scheme has been popular.

The scheme was opened up this year to include those working in residential care and Mr Ryall says a number of other health professions would be keen to be involved.