University welcomes incentives to boost rural, regional and remote health services

Thursday, 9 December 2021

The University of Newcastle has welcomed today’s Federal Government announcement of HECS-HELP debt refund as an incentive for healthcare workers to work in rural, remote and regional communities.

rural health care

Vice-Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky AO said the announcement was further incentive for health practitioners to work in regional and rural areas.

“Health services are essential to the heart of rural and regional communities and our University has long played a key role in the health workforce of our regions,” Professor Zelinsky said.

“We know our communities across regional and remote NSW are experiencing acute shortages of health practitioners, so today’s news is a welcome boost.

“Addressing the workforce gap in these communities is complex and will require multiple initiatives, and today’s announcement by Minister Gillespie is an important and valuable step.

“We know through our University’s Department of Rural Health that exposing people from metropolitan locations to rural practice results in more people staying in regional areas.

“Doctors, nurses and allied health staff have a significant HECS or HELP debt at the end of university – so this initiative is certainly one we welcome.

“We already deliver large numbers of clinical, allied health and nursing student placements as well as graduates across these regions – a key element of the workforces of towns from Moree to Coffs Harbour to Muswellbrook,” Professor Zelinsky said.

Key figures from the University of Newcastle include:

  • 37% of physiotherapist placements at the University of Newcastle occur in the rural footprint.
  • In 2021, 18 of the 21 interns at Tamworth Base Hospital who are now working at Tamworth Rural Referral Hospital have come through the rural immersion programs such as the University of Newcastle’s Department of Rural Health program.
  • Each year, more than one in four medicine graduates from the University of Newcastle have completed a full clinical year in a rural location.

The University said initiatives such as waiving  HECS-HELP debt under the new scheme were a good step to support long-term workforce outcomes.

“We know that for some of our graduates, this incentive could add up to more than $100,000, which is huge for them. We hope that it helps to both build rural careers and reduce clinical turnover.

“Our University is absolutely committed to growing and enhancing the health workforce in rural, remote and regional NSW and improving health services outside of metro areas,” Professor Zelinsky said.

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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.