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I too rise to speak on clinical training for our health professionals and the importance of the work being undertaken by Health Workforce Australia, and I thank the member for Kingston for the motion. As the representative of a growing community, I recognise the importance of ensuring the continued success of our health system, particularly in terms of our outer metropolitan and rural and regional communities—and I note that it is not just regional communities.
We face many challenges: an ageing population, an increased rate of heart disease, a rise in diabetes, mental health issues and addressing the concerns of those from migrant and Indigenous backgrounds. All of these issues affect my community and every community in Australia.
We need the workforce to be able to effectively address these issues. We need skilled and innovative doctors, nurses and allied health workers on the ground. We need a productive health system that enhances development and advancement. Also, we need to ensure we have health professionals in the areas and specialties where they are needed.
As you can see, providing adequate and comprehensive clinical training is truly about the health and wellbeing of our population and our nation. It is then imperative that we do all we can to proactively plan and assist health training capacity for our health professionals, now and into the future. In doing so, we can create a flexible, innovative and responsive health workforce that can meet the needs of all Australians. Government has a vital role to play in this.
Back in 2009 the National Health Workforce Taskforce identified that an additional ongoing intake of 12,000 students a year would be necessary to meet future health workforce requirements. Without this additional workforce we face a shortage of doctors, nurses and health professionals; an increasingly disparate and unequal health system; and a system where patients, based on nothing more than their postcode, are left behind.
That is why Health Workforce Australia is so important. As a Commonwealth authority, Health Workforce Australia delivers a nationwide and collaborative approach to our health workforce. Since its beginnings, Health Workforce Australia has been working cooperatively with governments and non-government organisations alike. By working with both the health and tertiary sector, they play an important role in planning and training Australia's health workforce.
An important part of this is ensuring greater training opportunities in the healthcare system. It was, for example, Health Workforce Australia that played an active role in increasing the depth of clinical training for our health students. Most recently, figures show a 50 per cent increase in the number of clinical training days in 2012, compared with 2010.
A huge component of this work is the Clinical Training Funding program, which provides funding to ensure there are enough training places to meet Australia's future health workforce needs. In total, the Clinical Training Funding program committed $432.2 million to public and private health services and universities. This assistance has meant the creation of 8,400 new clinical training places for students across 22 individual disciplines. Importantly, the program also actively promotes a balance in the distribution of clinical placements and students in our most underserviced areas. The Clinical Training Funding program is creating Australia's health professionals of the future, where and when we need them. It is key to our success.
Given the importance of this assistance, and the bipartisan support that another member spoke of, it is of great concern that the Assistant Minister for Health has suggested that unallocated funding to support critical clinical training has been frozen by the Abbott government. If they are acutely aware, we call on them to act. This is about the very future of our doctors and our nurses, the very future of our health system and the very future of our nation's wellbeing—and it is December 2013.
Surely the current Minister for Health can see this is too important an issue to play politics with, so I call on the coalition government to immediately make available funding to our universities and health services to ensure clinical placements continue to be available and that our students have greater access to placements now and into the future. It is about the health and wellbeing of every Australian.
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