13 Dec 2019

Otago institutions work to create virtual centre for rural health education

2:01 pm on 13 December 2019

Three Otago institutions are teaming up to improve the future of rural health care.

Young doctor giving helping hands for elderly woman

Photo: 123RF

The University of Otago, Otago Polytechnic and Central Otago Health Services have signed a memorandum of understanding on rural health care practice, service, education and research.

The organisations want to create a virtual centre for rural health education.

Central Otago Health Services chief executive, Kathryn de Luc, hopes exposing trainees to the rural environment for longer, will make it easier to recruit in future.

"So we are really trying to look at how the training is delivered and the education is delivered to see if we can make it more attractive."

De Luc said attracting staff is very hard - with one position in a hospital's radiology department sitting vacant for more than a year.

University of Otago Division of Health Sciences Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Brunton, said in a statement that the new relationship is exciting on its merits, but the future prospects it promises are of even greater interest.

"We believe that a lot more health professional education and research should be undertaken in rural areas and we see this memorandum as a logical step towards that greater goal. By its very nature this is a deeply collaborative exercise and our three organisations are formalising that collaboration now."

The partners are looking to work in collaboration with other key stakeholders in rural health throughout the country undertaking education and research in the sector, Prof Brunton said.

There is already collaboration in the area of rural health in terms of clinical placements, rural health research, postgraduate education and vocational training and professional development activities.

It's expected a newly-established task force made up of representatives from each organisation will identify future collaborations.

Otago Polytechnic Head of College for Nursing, Midwifery, Occupational Therapy and Sports Institute, Ian Crabtree, said the long-term goal of having a virtual health entity with wider connections across the rural health sector is both ambitious and forward-thinking.

Southern District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming said it's essential to have a workforce that can enable the Southern DHB, which covers the largest area of all DHBs, to serve its rural and remote communities.

"This is an excellent and very promising step in this direction that draws upon the great strengths in education and rural health care in our district," he said.

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