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Update from Commonwealth Department of Health, Health Workforce Division
Refer Appendix 1 in Documents
David Meredyth, Director Regional Training and Education Reform, Health Workforce Division, Commonwealth Department of Health
Mr Meredyth was pleased to see new faces as well as friendly and familiar faces as an encouraging sign of sustainability of leaders.
Overview of restructured Department of Health
  • Mr Meredyth provided an overview of the restructured Department of Health and revised roles and responsibilities.
  • The Regional Training and Education Reform Section (RTERS) works collaboratively to connect different levels of training. It shares responsibility for rural health multidisciplinary training with Grant Services.
  • Administration and grant management is the responsibility of Grant Services, whilst policy is the responsibility of the RTERS.
  • The Department is currently reviewing the Commission of Audit document.
  • There are Recommendations relevant to the health education sphere, but the impact will not be known until Budget has been released. The report recommends centralisation of some functions to look for efficiencies and avoid duplication in this tight fiscal environment.
Key priorities for the RTERS
  • Primary care workforce measures.
  • Doubling PIP payments to $200 per teaching session.
  • Scholarships in Nursing and Allied health.
  • Commonwealth funded intern positions ($40 mill over 4 years)
Future for RCTS Program
  • The impact of current reviews on rural health education programs and policy is not yet clear.
  • RTERS is working closely with Ministers Nash & Dutton.
  • Important for existing programs to promote their outcomes to government – educational value and evidence-based, around workforce distribution and benefits to rural communities.
  • New program funding is unlikely. It is essential to get value out of existing resources and leverage existing infrastructure.
  • Ministers Nash and Dutton are keen to look at opportunities for the medical training pathway and pipeline / vertical integration. A number of good proposals have been received. The government has accepted the policy argument and is now looking for realistic, detailed proposals around funding, coordination and management.
RCTS Reporting
  • The Department is keen to receive short reports, targeted to parameters. It is not necessary to include excessive detail, focus on parameters and targets, what’s working and what’s not.
  • Expend funds in the financial year allocated (use it or lose it) – parameters are broad and allow for a lot of activities – opportunities to be more innovative if operations are efficient and running a surplus.
Rural Placement Information Project (See Appendix 1)
  • Creation of a single, comprehensive Rural Placement Information website is the first step in building a better rural training pathway.
  • Participation by Rural Clinical Schools shows the government and senior Department staff the capacity of RCSs to do more, do it well and at no extra cost.
  • RCSs have the connections at the local level to engage with training providers, identify “hot spots” – well integrated training pathways and Identify gaps.
  • Students are interested in information that will enable them to continue their training without having to return to the city.
  • The functionality exists and can be modified to include more data - Districts of Workforce Shortage, training support and incentives, Enhanced map of medical placements, opportunities and contact information. It is essential to have a real person to talk to regarding positions and identification of the best contact person is key.
  • The next step is for the Department to design a template and circulate to RCSs & UDRIHs for feedback. The process should not be onerous and the Department wishes to move quickly to collect the data, modify the website, test internally then launch.
Questions and Discussion
  • Types of positions to record – accredited, funded, not filled.
  • Keeping the database up to date? The Department will request updated information on annual basis. The website will include a disclaimer around the need to speak with the contact person to confirm information and availability.
  • The website will be restricted to medical training in its initial phases with potential for expansion to include multi-disciplinary training places.
  • There is a role for RCSs in brokering opportunities.
Action: David Meredyth to circulate template to RCSs for feedback.
General Questions
  • Remote Area Classification Review – The government is still interested in the idea, which was a major feature of the Review of Health Workforce programs.
  • Budget & Funding - The Department is aware that Funding Agreements will expire 30 June 2015. The Government’s agenda is around streamlining, reduction of regulations and red tape, and reporting. Timing is difficult with budget uncertainty and contracts expiring. Re-funding processes are not simple.
  • There may be a role for FRAME to review the appropriateness of parameters, and provide collaborative feedback.
  • Refining Reports - diversity in the program is one of its strengths. Outcomes focussed parameters will allow flexibility, as long as the program is meeting its objectives & workforce outcomes.
  • Merging of UDRH and RCTS programs – would the Department be interested in a proposal on how it could be done at the local level? It is important to ensure there are not unintended consequences of the streamlining agenda.