NACCHO Aboriginal health news : How will Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash fix the regional doctor shortage in 2014 ?

Fiona Nash

“You don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but we also need to look with fresh eyes at why aren’t we getting more allied health professionals and doctors in regional areas, and what can be done better.”

Assistant Health Minister Senator Fiona Nash (BIO and contact details below)

FIXING the broken incentive scheme for doctors to come to regional Australia will be the top priority for Assistant Health Minister Senator Fiona Nash this year.

The Abbott Government’s minister responsible for rural and regional health, Sen Nash said fixing the geographical classification system that governs incentives to encourage doctors to leave the city was the most important issue facing rural health this year.

Exclusive South Burnett Times

The Australian Standard Geographical Classification – Remoteness Area (ASGC-RA) effectively decides whether doctors can access payments from $2500 a year to move to an inner regional area up to $13,000 for working in a very remote area

But long-standing problems have dogged the system since it was introduced in 2001, because it pays the same rates to doctors working in some major regional cities as those in some smaller, more remote towns.

“The previous (Howard) government put in place the incentives program to help ensure doctors move to regional areas, but it actually pays the same incentives for doctors to go to a town of 2000 to those who might move to a major town of 60,000,” Sen Nash said.

“Addressing that and other regional workforce issues and how to improve the incentive scheme is my priority this year.”

While Sen Nash was part of a Senate inquiry last year that closely examined the issue, she said she would not be rushing to meet a deadline this year – instead focussing on “getting it right”.

“What we have after many years of not enough doctors in Australia, is we now have enough, but the problem for rural and regional areas is we have a maldistribution, they largely reside in the cities, but it’s my target that by the end we will be able to say there are better outcomes for rural health,” Sen Nash said.

“You don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but we also need to look with fresh eyes at why aren’t we getting more allied health professionals and doctors in regional areas, and what can be done better.”

Sen Nash said she would also be focused on improving mental health, nutrition and food labelling as chair of the Food Ministers Council.

BIO and contact details Senator the Hon Fiona Nash

Assistant Minister for Health

Minister Nash was first elected to the Senate for the NSW Nationals at the 2004 Federal Election, and was re-elected in 2010.Prior to becoming Assistant Minister for Health, Senator Nash held a range of Parliamentary and Senate Committee positions.

In 2007 she was appointed Party Whip and in 2008, was elected Deputy Leader of the Nationals in the Senate. Also in 2008, Minister Nash was appointed as Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Water Resources and Conservation, and in 2010 became Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Education.

In her role as Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Education, Minister Nash led a successful campaign to make the independent youth allowance criteria fair for thousands of students living in inner regional areas.
In the Senate, Senator Nash chaired the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Senate committee from 2008 – 2010, heading up inquiries on issues such as biosecurity, grains, BSE-affected meat and regional education.

As a resident and representative of regional Australia, Minister Nash has a deep understanding of the challenges faced by people living outside metropolitan Australia.
Minister Nash and her husband, David, have two sons, William and Henry, and operate a mixed farm near Young in south west NSW.

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2014-01-13 07.27.37