Attracting health workers to rural areas

Attracting medical and nursing staff to country districts has required some creative thinking by rural councils, including the provision of housing and other incentives.

In Western Australia, which has some of the world’s most remote communities, the Country Shire Councils Association has been instrumental in the establishment of the Country Medical Foundation. It provides scholarships to assist country students to undertake studies in the medical field.

Recipients receive financial assistance in return for an undertaking that they will work in rural communities following graduation. To date 25 medical and 25 nursing scholarships have been granted, resulting in 12 nurses and one doctor now practising in country areas.

“Based on research that showed that country students are most likely to return to rural areas following graduation, the scheme commenced in 1990,” said Cr Ken Pech, President WA Country Councils Association and Acting Chairman of the Foundation.

“The Association was instrumental in getting this initiative off the ground. It has, since its inception, received strong bipartisan support from the State Government.”

The scholarship scheme is also being used as a model in New South Wales. Initially, some $1 million was raised by the Foundation over an 18 month period. As well as donations from the Association’s 107 member Councils, Corporate sponsorship was received from the Town & Country Bank, Westrac and Westfarmers. Interest from investment of this money is matched, on a dollar for dollar basis, by the State Government to fund the scholarships.

“We have also been instrumental in medical schools agreeing to adjust the entrance level to assist more country students to enrol,” Cr Pech added. “To date six country students have been accepted and are progressing well with their studies.”

He added that the Board of Trustees, which administers the scheme, is always on the lookout for new Corporate or private donations.

For further information contact Cr Ken Pech, telephone (098) 276 027.