More than 10,000 up-and-coming nurses and midwives will receive full university degrees to ease workforce pressure on Victoria’s overstretched health system.
Nurses and midwives will be recruited and trained for free from next year as part of a $270 million plan announced by the Victorian government on Sunday.
Under the five-year program, all new domestic students enrolling in professional nursing and midwifery programs in 2023 and 2024 will receive scholarships of up to $16,500 to cover program fees.
Students will receive $9,000 over three years of study, and the remaining $7,500 will be repaid if they work in Victoria’s public health service for two years.
Nurses and midwives will get courses for free under a new scheme announced by Victorian Premier Dan Andrews (pictured)
“We will pay off their full HECS debt,” Premier Daniel Andrews said on Sunday, amid applause from dozens of workers gathered at the offices of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) in Melbourne.
“They’re not clapping for themselves; they’re clapping because they know the best thing is to have an extra pair of hands.
$270 million in health care spending in Victoria
* Free university courses for over 10,000 nurses and midwives
* Expanded postgraduate midwifery program with program fees and salary support for 150 existing nurses to complete their studies
*A $11,000 scholarship to cover the cost of a RN program to become a RN
* $12,000 scholarship for 100 new nurse practitioners in acute and community settings
* Over $20 million to help graduates and graduate students transition to hospital work
Scholarships with an average value of $10,000 will also be awarded to graduate nurses to complete studies in specialty areas including critical care, emergency, pediatric and cancer care.
Mr Andrews said the Victorian government had been working on the option for months as hospitals across the state collapsed under the weight of the latest COVID-19 wave.
“Our hospital system is under very, very stress,” he said, with as many as 2,000 health workers contracting the virus on any given day this winter.
“If the coronavirus is raging, then nurses are not immune.”
Shadow Health spokesman Georgie Crozier said the opposition would deliver on its promise and said the coalition would unveil its full staffing policy closer to the November state election.
“Daniel Andrews has been doing it for eight years and has done nothing,” she said.
“This government has no idea and it’s so late to announce.”
ANMF state secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said she was excited by the Victorian government’s announcement but concerned about the opposition’s pledge to match it.
“It’s a bit like Meg Ryan (quoting) ‘I have what she has,'” she said, referencing a famous scene from the 1989 film When Harry Met Sally.
“I’m worried they’ll say that when they don’t know the details of the commitment, so it’s very disturbing.”
The funding scheme will bring more staff to the hospital to ease the pressure on the healthcare system (pictured, Dan Andrews at Melbourne’s Austin Hospital on Tuesday)
Ms Fitzpatrick believes the $270 million package will make filling rosters easier and allow more nurses to adopt flexible working arrangements.
After two and a half years plagued by the pandemic, both major parties have designated health as an area of focus in the upcoming state elections.
The Opposition has pledged to shelve the Andrews government’s multi-billion-dollar suburban rail loop if it wins the November polls to redirect funds to building and upgrading hospitals in Melbourne and regional Victoria.