More than 10,000 budding nurses and midwives will have their university degrees paid off in full to boost staffing across Victoria’s ailing health system.
Thousands of nurses and midwives will be recruited and trained for free as part of a $270 million initiative announced by the Victorian government on Sunday.
Under the five-year program, all new domestic students enrolling in a professional-entry nursing and midwifery course in 2023 and 2024 will receive a scholarship of up to $16,500 to cover course costs.
Students will receive $9000 over their three years of study and the remaining $7500 would be paid off if they work in the Victorian public health services for two years.
“We will pay their entire HECS debt,” Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters at the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) office in Melbourne.
Scholarships of $10,000 on average will also be handed to thousands of postgraduate nurses to complete studies in specialist areas, including intensive care, emergency, paediatrics and cancer care.
Other features of the package include:
- $11,000 scholarships for enrolled nurses to become registered nurses, covering course costs
- $12,000 scholarships for 100 new nurse practitioners in both acute and community settings
- More than $20 million to help growing numbers of graduates and postgraduates transition to working in hospitals
Mr Andrews said the government has been working on the package for months, as hospitals across the state were buckling under the weight of the latest COVID-19 wave.
“Our hospital system is under very, very significant pressure, and that is due to a combination of factors,” he said.
Opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said the opposition would match commitment, flagging the coalition would release its full staffing policy closer to the November state election.
“Daniel Andrews has had eight years to do this and has failed to do anything,” she said.
“This government is bereft of ideas and are coming at this late time to make an announcement.”
State Secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, Lisa Fitzpatrick, said she was thrilled with the Victorian government’s announcement but concerned about the opposition’s pledge to match it
“It sort of seems like the Meg Ryan (quote) ‘I’ll just have what she’s having’,” she said, referencing a well-known scene from the 1989 film When Harry Met Sally.
“I’m concerned that they would just say that when they don’t know the detail of the commitment, so that’s troubling.”
Ms Fitzpatrick believes the $270 million package will make it easier to fill rosters and allow more nurses to take up flexible work arrangements.
Health has become a key battleground for the 26 November state election after two-and-a-half pandemic-plagued years.
The opposition has promised to shelve the Andrews government’s multibillion dollar Suburban Rail Loop to redirect funding to build and upgrade hospitals in Melbourne and regional Victoria.