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Minister welcomes rural health body

20 May 2005

Minister welcomes rural health body

Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor has welcomed the announcement of a new national body for medical students interested in rural health careers.

Aotearoa Rural Health Apprentices (ARHA) was launched today and aims to promote student interest in rural health careers. Its founding members cite quality of life and interesting and varied clinical work as incentives to join the rural workforce.

Mr O'Connor agreed. "Variety is inherent in rural general practice and that's what makes it so special. There are many unique advantages to practicing outside our main centres."

ARHA's formation follows $11,000 of government funding which allowed a group of New Zealand medical students to travel to Adelaide last year for the eighth National Undergraduate Rural Health Conference.

ARHA chair James Johnston was one of the students who attended the conference. He said it helped shaped ARHA, which is modeled on a national body in Australia (National Rural Health Network).

Mr O'Connor said the government worked hard to recruit and retain health practitioners in rural areas, with several initiatives in place to do so.

"$10.9 million a year goes into safeguarding the rural health workforce. We’ve put locum support schemes and reasonable roster funding in place to make rural practice more attractive, and this year the Health Ministry is undertaking further work on incentives for rural health workers.

It was great to have ARHA working towards the same goal. "The students share a passion for rural health, which is vital if we're going to attract the best and brightest to rural areas."

ARHA aims to promote student interest in rural health careers by: providing support and membership for students from a rural background; promoting careers in rural medicine through, for example, school visits; representing rural student's concerns at a national level, and encouraging interaction between students studying different disciplines.


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