Health Commission Overlooks “Priority Number One” For Rural Health, Australia

February 19, 2009 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment


The Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) says it is “very disappointed” that the number one
priority for fixing the rural health crisis-getting more health professionals into rural and remote
Australia-has largely been overlooked in the interim report of the National Health and Hospitals Reform
Commission, A healthier future for all Australians, released today.



“Unfortunately, like many before it, the Commission has overlooked the very top priority for fixing rural healthcare in
this country-the urgent need to entice more doctors, nurses and other health professionals to rural and remote
Australia” RDAA President, Dr Nola Maxfield, said.



“The Commission has recognised that there is a shortage of health professionals in rural and remote Australia, it
has recognised that rural and remote Australians have higher rates of chronic illness and a lower life expectancy,
and it has recognised that these Australians have the right to better access to healthcare-but it has not gone the
next step and recommended real measures to fix this by getting more health professionals to the bush.



“Instead, the Commission has only recommended tinkering around the edges of the current under-resourced and
under-staffed rural health system. This has not worked to-date and there is no evidence it will work in the future.
“Unfortunately, rural and remote Australia is woefully short of health professionals and any amount of tinkering
won’t make much difference for the rural Australians who are finding it incredibly difficult to get a medical
appointment, are having to travel hours for treatment, or have seen their local hospital closed or downgraded.
“What we really need are more hands on deck-in short, at least an additional 17,000 health professionals
including doctors, nurses and other health professionals. Until real reforms and real measures are put in place to
achieve this, there will be little that can be done to improve access to healthcare in the bush.
“We are disappointed that a crucial Rural Rescue Plan for which RDAA and the AMA have been calling has been
overlooked by the Commission in its recommendations. This Plan would greatly help to get and keep more doctors
in rural practice by providing real incentives and supports for them.



“While combatting the rural health workforce shortage is the single biggest hole for us in the Commission’s interim
report, we do welcome some of the Commission’s findings including its recognition of the current inequities in
health funding for those living in the bush, the important role of primary care in the overall health system, the need
to provide more training places and opportunities for medical students and junior doctors in rural and remote
settings, the need for additional measures to improve Indigenous health outcomes, and the need for better e-health
initiatives.



“We also welcome recognition that improvements should be made in patient travel support schemes so they better
compensate rural patients for the real costs they face in travelling away from home for treatment, and recognition
by the Commission that-when it comes to tele-medicine consults for rural patients with distant specialists-both
the specialist and any local doctor accompanying the patient should be covered through Medicare.
“At the end of the day, however, what rural Australians really want is access to a local doctor and a local hospital.
They want to be able to give birth locally and receive care as close to home as possible. The only way to achieve
this is to put in place better measures to get and keep more health professionals in country Australia.”



Rural Doctors Association of Australia

[Via http://www.medicalnewstoday.com]

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