More funding for UCRH student doctor training




Assistant Minister for Rural Health, Dr David Gillespie meeting medical students at UCRH’s Lismore campus.



The University Centre for Rural Health North Coast has been selected as one of 26 newly funded Rural Training Hubs to boost rural training and career pathways for trainee doctors and to lift doctor numbers in the regions.

The federal funding was announced on 13 April by the Assistant Minister for Rural Health, Dr David Gillespie.

Under the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training (RHMT) program $54.4 million has been allocated over 2016-17 to 2018-19 for new Regional Training Hubs and University Departments of Rural Health. 

Minister Gillespie said the Hubs across rural and regional Australia form an essential component of the Integrated Rural Training Pipeline for medicine.

“These hubs will work with local health services to help move medical students through the pipeline, enabling students to continue rural training through university into postgraduate medical training, and then working within rural Australia,” he said.

“Supporting high quality regional and rural health training is not only an important way to address rural health workforce shortages, but also maintain and improve overall services in the bush.

“Good quality accessible health services are an important and essential part in the growth of a regional economy,” the minister added.

The other components of the program are the Rural Junior Doctor Training Innovation Fund to foster new ways of training rural interns, and an expansion of the Rural Specialist Training Program, which is funding 100 new training places in rural areas – 50 in 2017 and another 50 in 2018.

UCRH Deputy Director Dr Michael Douglas welcomed the new funding: “This new grant recognises the foresight of the Northern NSW Local Health District and the calibre of our local specialists.

“The partnership between the LHD and the University of Sydney will help build the future specialist medical workforce for the region. It provides us with confidence that we can continue to meet the needs of our community for many years to come.

“This new initiative gives us a greater opportunity for medical students and trainee doctors to commit to working in our regions for the long term.”

The UCRH has campuses in Lismore, Grafton, Murwillumbah and Ballina, and trains students in the disciplines of allied health, pharmacy, nursing, dentistry and medicine.

Sydney University’s Medical School has delivered rural medical education for more than two decades, and by the end of 2017 almost 1,000 of its students will have had a substantial rural experience. Currently one-third of all students in the Sydney Medical Program undertake an extended rural placement.

Evidence shows that students who complete extended rural placements are more likely to seek a career in a rural area than either students who have not had such placements, or students who have a rural origin.

Ninety per cent of University of Sydney medical graduates who had completed an extended rural placement report that the experience had increased their interest in pursuing a medical career in rural or regional Australia.

The School’s Dean, Professor Arthur Conigrave, said converting these students’ positive intentions to become fully qualified rural doctors is a process of at least six to eight years of supervised vocational practice after graduation.

“The most important factor in ensuring that rural medical workforce needs are met and sustained is the availability of a comprehensive and adequately supported rural training ‘pipeline’,” he said.