Nurses needed in rural communities

LITTLE more than a month ago, Coffs Harbour nurses were protesting against severe staff shortages. Now, the Australian Nurses Federation has joined the fight for more staff in regional areas.

Yesterday, the AFN put the challenge to the government to improve incentives for nurses to boost numbers in regional and remote areas, claiming a “severe drought of healthcare professionals” was leaving regional communities at a disadvantage.

ANF assistant federal secretary Lee Thomas said nurses should be playing a much greater role in filling the health care void in regional Australia, especially for those communities without a GP.

“Of course we need more doctors but let’s not underestimate the benefit and expertise offered by nurses and other allied health professionals. A flexible approach is required to tackle the inequality of health care access experienced by many.”

She said nurses were already caring for rural communities and that work should be multiplied by increasing the number of non-metro nurses.

“The best way to achieve this is with incentives that help nurses shift and then settle into a community.”

She said rural Australians should have the same healthcare options as everyone else and seeing a highly experienced nurse locally could be an alternative to driving long distances or waiting for weeks to see a GP.

“Patients with chronic and complex disease, women requiring personalised health checks and parents of young children will all benefit from being able to see a nurse for their needs locally and affordably,” she said.

“While recent budget announcements for practice nurses are welcome, much broader incentives are needed to assist nurses to move to regional areas.”



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