Rural health wins $23 million in broadband subsidies

Round two of Clever Network initiatives announced

Almost $30 million has been poured into developing six regional health and local council networks under the second round of the $113 million Clever Networks program.

The Clever Networks program, part of the federal government's $1.1 billion Connect Australia scheme, co-funds communication upgrades to regional and remote services under the Innovative Services Delivery (ISD).

National ICT Minister Senator Helen Coonan announced the projects today at the Australian Telecommunications Summit in Sydney saying they are akin to the 16 regional initiatives funded under first round announcements launched in May this year.

"The Clever Networks program is continuing to deliver funding that enables better delivery of health, education, government, and emergency services in regional, rural, and remote Australia through broadband services," Coonan said.

"These projects are aimed at improving health and local government services [and to] encourage economic growth, [and] increased productivity.

"The $29.5 million in government funds under round two will generate additional funding of $53.5 million in contributions, making a total value of $83.1 million for the six projects."

Coonan played down the government's need for return on its investment in the projects, but said it may refill its coffers through support from state governments.

A $5.2 million videoconferencing project will allow trauma specialists in emergency rooms across regional Victoria hospitals in Bendigo, Echuca, Swan Hill and Mildura to seek advice from base hospitals in Melbourne via a video link.

Interoperable data networks will be deployed for the Western Australia health and emergency services under a $9.3 million grant to enhance its communications and coordination capabilities and improve its responsiveness.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service will receive a new $2.7 million e-health medical record system to improve its health care service for its 750,000 remote patients across New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia.

Communication networks and information sharing between Northern Territory shire councils will be improved with a $6.4 million injection under the ShiresNet scheme.

Coonan said the success of the project may be used to improve and rectify communications problems between local councils across NSW.

A further $3.1 million was allocated tele-health initiatives across WA, while $3 million was approved for the Hunter New England Clinical Outreach project to give an additional 23 hospitals access to advanced clinical applications already used by 163 facilities.

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