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Funding for regional health

Nurses welcome boost for clinical placements in regional Australia.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced the start of more funding for health services in regional communities.

The opening of applications for the new round of funding under the Health and Hospitals Fund honours an agreement reached between Labor and independent MPs in return for their support of a minority government.

Projects approved as part of the priority round could include improved acute care facilities, new local centres to better treat chronic diseases, and expansions to regional hospitals and to help support the clinical training capacity.

Applications for the next round of funding would be open until early December, Gillard said.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the number of projects funded by the government would depend on the quality of applications received, as evaluated by the Health and Hospitals Fund board.

"There is currently up to $1.8 billion in unallocated funds (excluding interest) in the fund," she said.

ANF federal secretary Lee Thomas said nurses and midwives were pleased the funding would support clinical training capacity in regional hospitals.

“We know that regional Australia continues to experience limited access to health services, including an inability or difficulty in recruiting nurses,” she said.

“If you provide clinical placement opportunities for nurses in regional hospitals then experience tells us that they are more likely to return to that community once they are registered.

“Local student nurses – particularly where there is a regional university – will also have the opportunity to do their clinical placement in their home town rather than travelling to metro areas where there is a shortage of available openings.”

Thomas said this was also about ensuring patients didn’t have to travel long distances to get care.

“Forcing people to travel great distances will often result in them delaying treatment and only seeking help once their condition has deteriorated,” she said.

Local access to nurses and local clinical training of nurses in regional communities will increase access to services, ultimately improving health outcomes, she said.

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