19 Jun 2009

Rural bonding scheme hits mark with doctors, nurses

1:58 pm on 19 June 2009

The Government has expanded its voluntary scheme for health workers prepared to work in rural areas and other hard-to-staff locations, because it's been so popular.

Launched in February to overcome chronic staffing shortages, the scheme offers write-offs of student loans or cash payments for graduate doctors, nurses or midwives.

Health Minister Tony Ryall says about 350 applicants were expected but the response has been more than double that.

All 893 applicants will be accepted and there will be a second intake of the scheme next year. The expanded scheme will be funded by means of an additional $7.5 million over five years.

The Rural GP Network's deputy chair, Dr Tim Molloy, says the response is pleasing but it is not clear how many of those applicants will end up in rural areas.

Dr Molloy says he understands, for example, that while the bonding scheme will be available to nurses working in hard-to-staff services, that does not specificially cover rural nurses.