Scholarship helps graduate help community

MONICA TISCHLER
Last updated 05:00 04/02/2014
Rohan Ratnayake

JOB OFFER: Rohan Ratnayake is one of the new graduate nurses that received a Government scholarship to serve in high-needs communities across the country.

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Rohan Ratnayake is among new graduate nurses making primary health care easily accessible in high-needs communities.

The 45-year-old primary healthcare nurse started work at East Tamaki Healthcare on Lincoln Rd last month after completing a bachelor of nursing at Henderson's Unitec.

Mr Ratnayake also works at Henderson's Wai Health Clinic and says it's rewarding helping up to 100 West Auckland high-needs patients a day.

"I love working with people and I'm so happy to be able to help out patients in high-needs areas," he says.

West Auckland has five practices in Avondale, Henderson and Ranui that each received a new graduate nurse through the Very Low Cost Access scheme.

The scheme operates through a Government scholarship which grants new graduate nurses work in high-needs communities across the country.

This year the Government has invested an extra $16 million over four years and helped 48 graduate nurses find jobs.

The Very Low Cost Access scheme began in 2007 and now receives $50 million in funding.

East Tamaki Healthcare nurse manager Gillian Davies says it enables Very Low Cost Access general practises to have a work force that meets the patients needs as well as national health targets including immunisation, smears, diabetes checks and smoking cessation.

"The impact was that patients weren't able to access appropriate care when needed.

"The scheme now means primary health care is accessible to patients," she says.

Mrs Davies says barriers to health care can include cost, opening hours and accessibility.

A patient is deemed "high-needs" depending on the socio-economic area they live in.

A practice has to have a high-needs patient threshold of 50 per cent for it to receive Very Low Cost Access payments funding.

Health Minister Tony Ryall says a strong primary health care system is central to improving the health of New Zealanders.

"The graduate nurses will work alongside general practitioners, practice nurses and other members of the general practice team.

"Together they will deliver care to those communities with the greatest need," he says.

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