Significant step for health campus

THE purchase of land is a significant step in a joint venture project set to train and retain health professionals in the Hastings.

The land deal for two neighbouring Highfields Circuit properties was recently finalised to make way for a purpose-built joint health education hub.

The University of NSW, University of Newcastle and North Coast Institute of TAFE are busily working on the project thanks to $20 million from the federal government.

The concept plan for the building is almost complete with the development application expected to be lodged this year.

The aim is for construction to start in the first half of 2013 with courses to begin in 2015.

Planning about courses is also well advanced.

Head of UNSW Rural Clinical School Dr Lesley Forster said the location close to Port Macquarie Base Hospital was ideal.

She said the project was a very good cooperation between the three institutions.

“We really are working cooperatively which is very exciting and is a way forward for other institutions and sites where there is a shortage of resources,” Dr Forster said.

She said project would create a legacy.

“We are changing the way that education in health is going to be run in this country,” Dr Forster said.

The University of NSW aims to start its six-year medical degree here from 2015.

The UNSW Rural Clinical School Port Macquarie campus, which started teaching in 2002, does not offer the full degree.

Director TAFE services community services and health faculty Dianne Paton said TAFE was excited to collaborate on the joint project.

TAFE’s program will have an allied health focus.

“This facility will bring to the region a program we have not delivered before,” she said.

The partners are committed to pathways from TAFE to university.

University of Newcastle Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Kevin McConkey agreed the three partners were working extremely well on the project.

“We are very well advanced in the sense the land has been purchased and we are in the final stages of the concept plan,” he said.

Prof McConkey said the University of Newcastle was already very active and committed to the Port Macquarie area with courses in nursing, education and midwifery.

The University of Newcastle plans to transfer nursing and midwifery courses to the new building with the addition of allied health programs such as occupational therapy.

Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott said it was exciting plans had now started to turn into a reality given the $20 million from the federal government.

Meanwhile, TAFE has applied for federal government money to create satellite “pods” at TAFE campuses in Taree, Coffs Harbour, Lismore and Kingscliff.

Video conferencing would connect the pods with the new health facility.

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