Belated HECS policy a good start, but long term commitment needed

The McGowan Labor Government’s commitment to reduce HECS fees for regional nurses and midwives is a good first step but more still needs to be done, according to the WA Opposition.

Shadow Minister for Regional Health, Hon Martin Aldridge MLC, acknowledged the policy was a positive first step, but said more incentives were needed.

“The Opposition has long called for greater support to increase the number of nurses and midwives working in regional WA, however, this policy does not go far enough to address years of neglect and underinvestment in our regional health workforce,” Mr Aldridge said.

“While this incentive will certainly be welcomed by young people looking towards a career in nursing, the impact of this policy will be limited unless there is more wraparound support for new graduates.”

Mr Aldridge said while regional WA was a wonderful place to live and work, it also presented unique challenges which needed to be recognised.

“Relocating hundreds of kilometres away from your support network in Perth; a lack of affordable and appropriate housing or rentals; and the increased cost-of-living in regional WA present real challenges for new graduates,” Mr Aldridge said.

“Regional healthcare workers tell me that they do not feel well supported working in remote environments and are often asked to work excessive hours to maintain service delivery which takes a toll on them personally and their families.”

“These are the issues that young people will be weighing up when considering career opportunities in the regions or staying in the metropolitan area.”

Mr Aldridge said he would like to see initiatives which also focused on bringing experienced nurses and midwives, allied health professionals and specialists to regional WA.

“New graduates are an important part of the mix for any health workforce, but regional WA is particularly challenged by a lack of experienced healthcare workers, and this policy will not change that.”

Mr Aldridge said Western Australia also now has a fantastic network of regional university centres which the government continues to fail to recognise and support the opportunity in training and skilling locals to work in regional healthcare delivery.

“The Minister for Health could today commit to provide public hospital placements for every nursing, midwifery and allied health student seeking to study at a regional university centre.

“This would help get more regional training off the ground and more regional students obtaining health qualifications where we know country kids are 20 per cent less likely to obtain a formal qualification from a TAFE or university post school.”