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Construction starts on huge boost for regional healthcare

Suzanne Lazaroo

27 August 2019: This month, construction has kicked off on two of the three clinical health training facilities under the South East NSW Health Collaborative project.

The joint initiative between the University of Canberra and The Australian National University (ANU) received federal funding of $8 million for the first two facilities.

Increasing training capability and research in nursing, midwifery, allied health and medicine, the project will make important inroads into the issue of regional healthcare accessibility. It’s also set to offer amazing potential for collaboration, bridge building and professional development between health service staff and the universities.

A sod-turning ceremony at Cooma Hospital and Health Services in early August was followed just over a week later by a groundbreaking ceremony at the South East Regional Hospital in Bega. A groundbreaking event at the third facility in Moruya is planned for the future.

“We’re very excited to be collaborating with ANU and local hospitals on this project, in order to improve training, research and healthcare delivery in these regions,” said Professor Deep Saini, UC Vice-Chancellor and President.

He added that students and healthcare professionals from the universities would be able to engage with the local health workforce, providing reciprocal benefits for students and the regional community, and creating amazing opportunities for research.

Executive Dean of the UC Faculty of Health Professor Michelle Lincoln said that the project is a significant investment in rural healthcare, addressing important issues of accessibility to healthcare in regional areas.

“These facilities will also create huge potential for collaboration, meaningful exchange and professional development, and help to grow the involvement of our UC Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health students in the hospital and broader community,” Professor Lincoln said.

“ANU is a university that offers solutions and improves the lives of people in local communities all over the world. This important collaboration with UC, and the Cooma Hospital and community is another example of this,” said Professor Imogen Mitchell, Director of the ANU Medical School.  

“This vital partnership will see ANU medical students learn from high-quality frontline health services in Cooma and creates a cohort of graduates who understand the importance and value of working in our rural, remote and regional communities. We are looking forward to a new and exciting chapter working with UC and the Cooma community to deliver excellence in student teaching and experience.”

Associate Dean, Rural and Indigenous Health and Head, Rural Clinical School, ANU Medical School Associate Professor Malcolm Moore said that healthcare in the future will require working in teams, and this facility will assist in developing those skills and inter-professional relationships.

“We look forward to playing an important role in the development of our future doctors and health professionals, and ensuring they understand the needs of our regional, rural and remote communities,” Associate Professor Moore said.  

The well-appointed South East NSW Health Collaborative facilities will include simulated learning spaces outfitted with state-of-the-art communications infrastructure, seminar spaces and student accommodation.

At the South East Regional Hospital, UC student accommodation will be built on the hospital grounds, alongside the clinical training facility, while ANU has off-site accommodation.

The South East NSW Health Collaborative facilities are expected to see completion in late March 2020.