Fiona Nash, the Federal Assistant Minister for Health, officially opened the Rural Health Academic Centre Student Accommodation in Alfredton this week. It’s hoped the $2.93 million facility will attract medical graduates to continue working in regional Australia.
The Ballarat student accommodation is purpose-built to house 32 the University of Melbourne and Deakin University students whilst they undertake clinical placements in: medical, nursing and allied health. Rooms cater for single students, those with partners and families.
Minister Nash believes the eight two-story townhouses are a valuable addition to Ballarat’s education infrastructure, particularly the main training site at the Ballarat Health Service
“This investment will ensure more medical students can live, train and potentially work in a regional area…trainee health professionals often choose to work in the communities where they complete their training,” she said.
The townhouses will accommodate medical, nursing and allied health students close to the main training site at the Ballarat Health Service, with rooms for both single students, and those with partners and families.
Dedication to regional education
The facility is a major boost for the region’s economy. It will also improve regional services, with students working at Ballarat Base Hospital and associated local health agencies as part of their training. Pressure on existing health services is expected to be alleviated by the influx of students eager to further their medical career.
The Rural Health Academic Centre (RHAC) is the University of Melbourne’s centre for teaching, research and community engagement in rural health. The Rural Clinical School (RCS) is a key program established by the the University of Melbourne in partnership with the Commonwealth Department of Health in 2002.
The Rural Clinical School is dedicated to local education and has campuses located in:
- Shepparton (in partnership with Monash University)
Each campus boasts multi-purpose facilities with:
- student residential accommodation
- office and administration areas
- conference rooms
- tutorial rooms
- computer rooms
- clinical skills laboratories
A new generation of health professionals
In 2013, just under 900 students underwent training at rural clinical schools around Australia, providing hands-on work and living experience for a new generation of health and medical professionals. The next few years will also see an additional 100 placements for international medical intern students around the country, who will be based at private hospitals. 500 scholarships for allied health professionals and nurses in rural health are also being offered to students.
Reaching out to rural Australians
This latest injection of funds is part of an overall plan of $52.5 million being invested toward providing infrastructure for rural health. Apart from building facility improvements, the initiative aims to train increasingly large numbers of doctors and registrars who will continue their career outside major population centres and reach a greater number of rural Australians.
Minister Nash believes that “by building a larger and better-skilled regional health workforce, we can go a long way toward delivering better care to the one in three Australians that live outside a major city.”
Country hospitality in a friendly environment
The Rural Clinical School student-to-patient loads are equivalent to urban hospitals and boast:
- country hospitality
- friendly environment
- close camaraderie
Accommodation is provided at all Rural Clinical School campuses and includes:
- a single or double bed
- desk and chair
- bedside table
Many students quickly become integral members of the local community. Natural wonders are close at hand, and cultural experiences abound. The new accommodation at Alfredton is in addition to present RCS accommodation that includes:
- Ballarat Health Services almost 800 beds
- Bendigo Health more than 660 beds
- Goulburn Valley Health (Shepparton) over 250 beds
- North East Health Wangaratta more than 200 beds
General practice takes place two days per week, with a curriculum identical to that of students studying in urban centres.