Mark Coulton

An independent review has found the Nationals-driven rural health training is a winner for students and rural communities.

The evaluation of the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training (RHMT) showed the program had successfully supported rural clinical training experiences for students across a range of health disciplines for the past 20 years.

NSW Nationals Regional Health Minister Mark Coulton said the RHMT program played a key role in supporting health students to train, work and stay in rural and remote locations.

“We know greater exposure to rural training opportunities leads to more doctors and health professionals choosing rural careers and the RHMT program is a critical to achieving this,” Mr Coulton said.

“The evaluation found the program is of significant educational value, provides students with rewarding experiences in rural communities and is an important contributor to addressing rural health workforce shortages across Australia.

“The review also demonstrates the capacity of universities to provide students with high quality clinical rural training opportunities.

“Whether you are training to become a doctor, nurse, dentist, physiotherapist or psychologist, we want our future front line of health professionals to feel well supported and embrace careers in rural healthcare.

“Regional and rural communities also benefit from the investment the NSW Nationals in the federal government makes in this rural training program including from greater access to health services and facilities, rural health research and the multiple benefits that a university presence delivers for local jobs.”

Win for local communities

Mr Coulton said the review also showed the program supported the social and economic strength of rural communities. For every dollar spent under the program, another dollar is generated in the local economy.

“This evaluation reaffirms the value of the RHMT program to increase the number of health professionals working in the bush. It is important that Australian Government investment is well-targeted and future-proofed,” Mr Coulton said.

“The NSW Nationals in the federal government are committed to bridging the city-country divide in health services; and this program is a demonstration of that commitment to support the training of health and medical students in rural, remote and regional Australia as an initial step towards a rural health career.

“The National Rural Health Commissioner Associate Professor Ruth Stewart will now assist the government to consult with stakeholders on the evaluation’s recommendations and provide input into how the program can be further enhanced.

“I’m looking forward to hearing from the sector about how we can further strengthen and develop rural training opportunities to keep building this important program for the future.”

The NSW Nationals in the federal government invest $200 million each year in a network of rural clinical schools (RCSs), university departments of rural health (UDRHs), and dental faculties offering rural placements. The program also supports 26 regional training hubs, with 21 universities currently participating in the program.