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"Rural doctors lament nurse shortage"

December 13, 2006 -- Today the Newcastle (New South Wales) section of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) site reported that a rural physician group says the "lack of new nursing recruits is jeopardising the health of patients at Scone Hospital." The Rural Doctors Association (RDA) notes that new nursing recruits are not going to rural areas, a problem it links to a lack of government resources for rural health. We commend the ABC for the report, and the RDA physicians for advocating for better nurse staffing on their patients' behalf.

The short, unsigned ABC item notes that the New South Wales state government says the public health sector has gained 5,000 nurses in the last four years. But a recent auditor-general's report "singled out" Scones Hospital for failing to attract "new graduate nurses." RDA state president Les Woolard says the recruits are not going to rural areas:

The further you live from Sydney the less dollars per head is spent on your health care. Why should the people of Scone pay the same taxes and receive less dollars back on their care? That is a crying tragedy.

Woolard and the RDA have identified a global problem. As a recent International Council of Nurses report made clear, many nurses are migrating from rural to more populous areas, or avoiding rural areas entirely, because of a relative lack of good opportunities. The resulting shortage of rural nurses has just the effect the RDA says: it puts patients' health in jeopardy.

We commend the Rural Doctors Association for recognizing the role nurses play in patient outcomes, and for taking a stand on nurse staffing.

See the article "Rural doctors lament nurse shortage" posted on the ABC Newcastle site on December 13, 2006. The article also appeared on Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) News Online.

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