The President of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia has warned the Federal Government that the time has come to “get real” on funding for rural healthcare.
In its pre-budget submission for the 2012-13 federal budget, RDAA has put forward a range of initiatives to address the continuing shortage of rural health professionals and associated poorerhealth outcomes for rural and remote Australians.
It has warned that the current health policy framework is failing to meet the needs of rural and remote communities and requires an urgent overhaul.
“We continue to face a critical situation—people living in country Australia have much poorer access to local health services, significantly worse health outcomes and a significantly shorter life expectancy than those living in the city” RDAA President, Dr Paul Mara, said.
“Recent evidence* that the death rate for patients with rectal cancer rises by 6% for every extra 100 kilometres that a patient lives from radiation therapy facilities is yet another reminder of the immense and urgent need for additional supports for rural healthcare in the forthcoming budget.
“To improve health outcomes in rural and remote communities, we need to build asustainable rural medical workforce and viable practices that can support better access to primary healthcare, general practice and local hospital-based services.”
Initiatives that RDAA is urging the Federal Government to fund in the 2012-13 budget include:
* a National Advanced Rural Training Program to secure a future pipeline of rural generalist doctors who have the advanced skills needed for rural practice
* incentives that better recognise and reward doctors (both generalists and specialists) who opt to work in rural and remote communities, and a more realistic rural classification system on which these incentives are based
* continued support through the Practice Incentives Program for rural doctors who provide after-hour services to their communities (this support is due to be discontinued from July 2013)
* more support to expand rural practice infrastructure, and a greater investment in remuneration for rural doctors who supervise and train medical students and young doctors, to meet growing demand for rural clinical training placements
* a co-ordinated, national approach to the assessment, training, support and supervision of overseas trained doctors who wish to work in rural and remote Australia
RDAA has also called for a greater investment in the Government’s telehealth initiative to extend Medicare rebates to other types and modes of consultations, and the introduction of an MBS item that helps rural practices meet the additional costs of creating health summaries for Patient Controlled Electronic Health Records for rural patients.
“In the lead-up to the next federal budget, our take-home message to the Government is simply this: it’s time to get real” Dr Mara said.
“Over 30 percent of Australians live in rural and remote areas and they generate two-thirds of Australia’s export earnings. Investment in rural health is not just an investment in doctors, or even the health of individuals—it is an investment in the health of our whole economy and the future of our nation.”