Boosting SA’s regional health workforce

Regional and remote communities will benefit from an expansion of Flinders University’s rural health training opportunities across the Riverland, Mallee and Coorong regions, thanks to a Federal Government funding boost announced today in Murray Bridge by Regional Health Minister, Dr David Gillespie.

Awarded $1.94 million to extend the Government’s Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training (RHMT) program, the funding will see the expansion of multidisciplinary service-learning placements coordinated from Flinders Rural and Remote Health SA campuses in Murray Bridge and Berri. It means future physios, occupational therapists and other health professionals will have the chance to do work placements that both contribute to community health and wellbeing, and to the development of their professional skills.

Flinders University President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling welcomed the government’s investment in growing the regional workforce, highlighting it confirms Flinders position as a respected leader in rural and remote allied health learning.

“This is a testament to Flinders’ long-standing commitment to rural and remote health and will allow us to expand on our already extensive experience in educating and developing the regional health work force of the future,” says Professor Stirling.

“Through Flinders Rural and Remote Health across South Australia and into the Northern Territory, our fundamental vision is to improve the health of our communities through the transformative power of education, research and health care.

“Our geographic footprint across South Australia and throughout the Australian Central Corridor is a defining feature for Flinders, allowing us to deliver regional academic programs, training and research that impact some of the most diverse communities in Australia.”

(l-r) Professor Jonathan Craig, Dean of Flinders Rural and Remote Health Professor Robyn Aitken, Minister David Gillespie, Professor Colin Stirling and Member for Barker Mr Tony Pasin MP.

The Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training (RHMT) program offers health students the opportunity to train in rural and remote communities with the aim of recruiting and retaining medical, nursing, dental and allied health professionals to these regions.

Vice President and Executive Dean of Flinders University’s College of Medicine and Public Health Professor Jonathan Craig says the funding announced today will leverage the already significant investment Flinders has made to rural and remote Australia.

“Flinders University has delivered health education and training in regional South Australia and the Northern Territory for over 20 years, with a strong national and international reputation for providing community-engaged inter-professional training for medical, nursing and allied health students,” says Professor Craig.

“Working together with our local health service partners, we will look to expand our current speech pathology and social work service-learning activities to include multidisciplinary placements for students studying other allied health degrees including dietetics, audiology, public health, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, podiatry and pharmacy, not just from Flinders University, but also UniSA, University of Adelaide and TAFE SA.”

The project aims to address workforce retention by creating a career pathway for early career allied health professionals to become academic clinical educators, while also providing supervisor training to encourage local health professionals and community members to mentor and support students.

Co-designed with the Riverland Mallee Coorong Local Health Network (RMCLHN), the project will also extend Flinders’ partnership with Moorundi Aboriginal Medical Service.

“With approximately 1000 Aboriginal people living in the north and 1200 in the south of the region, and one of the largest Indigenous populations in SA, the initiative has great potential to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal people,” says Professor Craig.

“Indigenous students and placements for students from rural backgrounds in services providing health care for Aboriginal people and other vulnerable and underserviced populations will also be prioritised as part of the program.”

Alongside the training activities, the funding will also allow for the purchase of housing for student accommodation in both Murray Bridge and Berri, to ensure metropolitan and non-local students can have a high-quality experience and be immersed into the local community.

“We recognise one of the core strengths of our rural training program is that it develops a professional work force that has been trained and immersed in the regions directly, helping them to understand and appreciate the unique challenges rural life can bring,” says Professor Craig.

“Perhaps more importantly, we know that when our people work in the regions, they fall in love with them and they stay, growing a health workforce well suited to the extraordinary conditions that can be faced far from a metropolitan setting.

“Today’s funding further recognises Flinders’ expertise in rural and remote education, which Flinders remains committed to across South Australia and the Northern Territory.”

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