Regional health to be boosted in budget

By Andrew Brown
March 23 2022 - 12:00am
The government's specialist training program will be continued for four years from 2022. Photo: Shutterstock

More than $700 million will be set aside in the federal budget to support specialist medical training in regional areas.

The government's specialist training program will be continued for four years from 2022, with $708.6 million being spent on its expansion.

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The program, which has been running since 2010, allows for local doctors to be trained across medical specialty areas.

It's expected the specialist training program would mean 920 full-time places each year, with training across areas such as specialist rooms, day surgeries and private hospitals.

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Regional Health Minister David Gillespie said the program would help to boost the medical workforce in regional and rural areas.

"This four-year extension of the specialist training program allows specialist trainees to continue to take up the opportunity to train in regional communities, which we know creates a higher likelihood they will remain or return after their training is complete," he said.

The funding will be provided to 13 non-GP specialist medical colleges, such as the Australasian College of Dermatologists, Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the College of Intensive Care Medicine.

Regional health will also get another $4.2 million in the budget to increase access for medical specialists in rural areas such, such as dermatologists, sport and exercise physicians as well as psychiatrists.

The new funding will be split across eight projects that support more specialists undertaking regional placement and training.

"This investment will improve distribution of and supply of specialist medical training in areas of under supply that will also meet the needs of regional, rural and remote communities," Dr Gillespie said.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the projects would also trial new ways for supervising non-GP specialist trainees.

"One in particular will be delivered as a consortia approach in collaboration with the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association," Mr Hunt said.

"(The method will) increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people trained as non-GP medical specialists across most specialities."

With transport a key issue for regional areas, a further $29 million in the budget will go towards upgrading regional airports.

Applications will open for grants of between $20,000 and $5 million to help cover up to half of eligible project costs.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the funding would be used to deliver crucial upgrades and keep regional airports going at full capacity.

"Recent flooding events have highlighted how crucial regional airports and aerodromes can be for getting essential supplies and aero-medical services into communities," Mr Joyce said.

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"Improving our regional airports will provide a significant benefit to regional Australia, supporting jobs during construction and operations and creating new economic opportunities."

Upgrades can include runway resurfacing, drainage works or lighting upgrades to allow for night landings.

Australian Associated Press

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