County Health Services

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (14:33): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Health and Wellbeing a question regarding country health services.

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: Members of the council will be well aware of my interest in country communities and making sure the voice of country residents is heard in this chamber. An area of particular focus for me has long been the wellbeing of regional South Australians. Will the minister update the council on programs to support the delivery of health services in country South Australia?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:33): I thank the honourable member for his question and for his continued advocacy for residents of rural and regional South Australia. The delivery of appropriate and quality health services to rural areas is a key commitment of the Marshall Liberal government and, obviously, fundamental to that is to maintain a strong rural health workforce. I'm pleased to update honourable members on a program of undergraduate scholarships that Country Health SA administers, which assists in the long-term goal of developing a sustainable health workforce in rural and regional areas. The scholarships are available to students who reside in regional South Australia and are studying or about to commence study in a relevant health-related discipline.

Six scholarships will be awarded; one for each region of Country Health—or each local health network, as they will be next year. The particular courses supported are determined each year through consultation with the regions and the consideration of the strategic workforce needs. For the 2019 intake, Country Health SA has determined that it will target applicants who are studying in the fields of nursing, speech pathology, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and podiatry.

Year 12 students and current undergraduate students are the focus. Successful applicant will receive $5,000 per year for up to four years of their undergraduate degree. On completion of their study, scholarship recipients will work at a Country Health SA site for a period of time equivalent to the length of time they receive funding.

This type of program provides additional value when compared to general scholarship programs through its particular focus on regional areas. Students who know their region and its specific needs can be more likely to remain in ongoing work within that region following the completion of the scholarship and its associated working years. The program can also encourage students who want to remain in their region but might otherwise face uncertainty as to the possibility of employment to consider the possibility of study in health-related fields. This will particularly be important with growing demand on the public health system in future years.

I am also advised that further scholarships are partly or fully funded by eight of South Australia's health advisory councils. These scholarships are similarly targeted at local residents within the area covered by the HAC which offers the scholarship. Applications for the Country Health undergraduate scholarships close on 19 September, so there is still a good window of opportunity for potential applicants to consider the scholarships and put together their applications.

I would encourage eligible residents to take up the opportunity provided by the scholarships to establish successful and satisfying careers in health professions serving regional South Australia.