Moving to increase numbers of rural health professionals in Our Towns is the key objective of a newly formed federally-funded entity, Southern Queensland Rural Health (SQRH), has begun work.
SQRH will cover a vast geographical area of approximately 400,000 square kilometres – from the Lockyer Valley in the east, out to the western plains of the South West, through to the Granite Belt on the Southern Downs and across to Kingaroy and the South Burnett.
The regional council areas include Goondiwindi, Balonne, Maranoa, Murweh, Paroo, Quilpie, Bulloo, Toowoomba, South Burnett, Cherbourg, Southern Downs, Western Downs.
The SQRH team will operate from two main training sites – Toowoomba on the Darling Downs and Charleville in the far South West of Queensland. Both locations will service various spoke sites.
SQRH is a University Department of Rural Health and is a collaboration between The University of Queensland, the University of Southern Queensland, Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service (DDHHS) and South West Hospital and Health Service (SWHHS).
An Advisory Board, chaired by well-known Toowoomba community leader Derek Tuffield, will oversee the strategic direction of SQRH.
SQRH Director Associate Professor Geoff Argus says SQRH will deliver its key objective by supporting and enhancing placements for nursing, midwifery and allied health students at various health services and health providers.
“We are tasked with building a strong foundation of rural and remote workforce development. Recruiting and retaining health professionals in rural and remote regions is always challenging. There has been a lot of work conducted by various organisations to address the problem and part of our brief will be to build on local initiatives and programs.”
“We are currently recruiting our team which includes clinical educators, career development officers, student support staff, research staff and administration. We will have two main training sites – one at Toowoomba and one at Charleville.”
Professor Argus says the team will work with nursing, midwifery and allied health students from any Australian university to gain clinical placement in Darling Downs and South West health organisations.
“We will work with both public and private health services, Aboriginal health services and community-based care providers. As well as providing practical assistance such as short-term accommodation, training and development for supervisors and clinical placement support, SQRH will work with local communities and local government to expand social experiences.”
“Because our aim is to have students return to live and work in rural and remote areas we want them to enjoy the rural lifestyle, participate in activities that are uniquely rural and to feel welcome amongst local people.”
He says the organisation has already found that local government representatives are very keen to support these ideas with several suggesting that students be invited to organised social events, sporting matches or community activities.
“Our students will be learning their profession but will also help provide health care with students and their clinical supervisors providing chronic disease clinics at various locations later this year. We look forward to working with health providers and local communities across the Darling Downs and South West to develop innovative and flexible ways to grow the rural and remote health workforce.”
SQRH Board Chair Dereck Tuffield said he looked forward to working with Board members to bring improvements and innovation to the rural health landscape.
“It’s well documented my passion for health and social services across the Darling Downs and South West so taking up the Board Chair position is a perfect fit.”
Anyone interested in working with SQRH can contact Operations Manager Louise Sanderson on 0427 035 800.