NSW healthcare scholarships welcomed but commitment needed on staffing ratios

NSWNMA General Secretary Shaye Candish, second from left, outside a polling booth in the Heathcote electorate last weekend.

The incoming NSW Labor government has announced the introduction of 2,000 new scholarships for healthcare students from 2024.

The $76 million investment aimed to attract staff and retain talent in the NSW public health system has been welcomed by the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) who now want commitment from NSW Labor to mandated nurse-to-patient ratios.
The 2,000 scholarships will be spread amongst students studying healthcare disciplines including nursing, midwifery, paramedicine, allied health, and medicine.
From 1 January 2024, 2,000 healthcare students a year will be eligible to apply for a study subsidy of $12,000 to help pay for their degree – paid at $4,000 a year for three years. However, students must commit to working a minimum of five years in the NSW public health system.
NSW Labor Leader Chris Minns said the cost of study was a financial burden for prospective healthcare workers.
“I want to boost recruitment of the next generation of paramedics, nurses and doctors for our public health system that will take pressure off and ensure patients get the care they need.”
Applications for the healthcare student subsidies will be prioritised based on geographic areas and vocations of need. There will also be different benefits for current and future students who commit to the NSW public health system.
Students already enrolled before 1 January 2024 will only be able to access a one-off payment of $8,000 when they graduate, but students and graduates from 2024 will be able to access three $4,000 payments. The transition scheme will be available to another 2,000 students a year, for the next three years.
The Minns Labor Government announced a fresh start for health in the state, including commitment to implement safe staffing levels in NSW hospitals to help with workloads; and to remove the wages cap, which unfairly keeps wages low for key frontline workers such as nurses and hospital staff.
NSWNMA General Secretary Shaye Candish said the union welcomed the Labor government’s investment to help attract and retain nurses and midwives in NSW.

“Labor’s subsidy commitment acknowledges we are operating a broken public health system and we need a solutions-focused outlook. This is better than the previous government’s position of denying there’s any issues or conflating the annual new graduate intake numbers as ‘additional investment into the system’ when they are already be used to fill current vacancies rather than grow our health workforce.

“But we also acknowledge Labor’s subsidy commitment on its own isn’t the solution, we do need minimum and enforceable nurse-to-patient ratios on every shift in NSW.”

The NSW healthcare student subsidies follows the federal government’s initiative that removes Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) debts for doctors and nurse practitioners who relocate to regional Australia. The Victorian Government announced 10,000 scholarships for nursing and midwifery undergraduates in August 2022.

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