Rural And Remote Australia Needs Fair Share Of Health Dollar

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12th May 2010, 01:52pm - Views: 437
Rural and Remote Australia Needs Fair Share of Health Dollar

Rural Health Workforce Australia applauds the latest Budget initiatives which expand support for primary health care, particularly general practice.

However, RHWA says there needs to be careful focus on implementation of these reforms so they actually deliver better service to rural and remote communities.

"It is imperative that we support general practice in rural and remote Australia as a priority, otherwise it will result in even more of a gap in access to health services for rural and remote people," says RHWA Chief Executive Officer, Dr Kim Webber.

"For example, the increases in incentives to employ practice nurses are based on the number of GPs per clinic so the more GPs you have, the greater the payment. How does this apply to a solo GP in a small town who is in desperate need of extra help? We need to look at a rural loading in cases like this."

Similarly, Dr Webber says it is critical that the bush receives a significant portion of the $355 million allocated to build new GP super clinics and upgrade 425 primary care facilities. She says that to address existing health inequities the infrastructure investment should be weighted towards rural areas where unmet needs are greatest.

"Better infrastructure will make it easier to recruit and attract health professionals into rural and remote areas so it's vital that rural and remote Australia gets its fair share of this money," she says.

"The new nursing and allied health locum programs are a further step in the right direction. They should help attract more health professionals to the bush, because people know they will get support for short-term breaks."

Dr Webber says the new after-hours Medicare Local service could potentially be an opportunity for rural and remote communities.

"Some of these places don't even have access to health workers during the day because of workforce shortages," she says. "This initiative could focus on the needs of rural and remote people during the day and night, rather than just providing after-hours services for city people."

Rural Health Workforce Australia (RHWA) is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to improve rural and remote communities' access to primary medical services. RHWA provides policy advice to government and delivers programs that support the recruitment and retention of GPs and other rural health workers. It is the peak body for the Rural Workforce Agencies which recruit and support rural and remote GPs in each state and the Northern Territory.

Media enquiries:
Tony Wells
RHWA Communications Manager
03 9860 4706
0417 627 916

SOURCE: Rural Health Workforce Australia

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