NACCHO #HealthElection16 : Major parties must step up and invest in remote and rural health


Fact – risk factors for poor health such as smoking and obesity are higher in remote Australia.  These factors are proven to contribute to ill health and the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, amongst others. 

Fact – 20% more people in remote areas are living with disease when compared with those living in the city.

Fact – the death rates due to diabetes, suicide, lung disease and heart disease are significantly higher in remote Australia.

Kim Webber, CEO of the National Rural Health Alliance ( see full Press Release below )

Download the Health of people living in remote Australia


” There are around 150 ACCHOs across Australia – 134 funded by the Australian Government, There are more than 300 fixed, outreach and mobile clinics in the ACCHO sector and more are opening all the time.

The importance of the ACCHO sector is widely and formally acknowledged across the Australian health and social sectors – from GPs to hospital emergency facilities. ACCHOs are Australia’s largest, single national and preferred primary health care system for Aboriginal people.

The ACCHO sector is also the only nation-wide network of service providers accountable back to Aboriginal communities. ACCHO Directors are elected Aboriginal people from communities in urban, rural and remote locations from all over Australia “

Matthew Cooke NACCHO Chair “Hear our Voices “

Full story in next weeks NACCHO Aboriginal Health Newspaper

“Aboriginal Health In Aboriginal Hands  ” NACCHO TV

” The survey’s findings highlighted what needed to be done to improve the health of Australians living in rural areas.

“Doctors and other health workers in rural areas do a fantastic job in often tough conditions,”

“Despite this, we know people living in regional and rural Australia have lower life expectancy and poorer health than those in the cities, and access to care is a big part of the problem.

AMA President Dr Michael Gannon


Country Australia needs more doctors and other health professionals, improved internet access and better hospital facilities, according to an AMA survey of the top issues affecting rural health.

Almost 600 doctors who took part in the AMA Rural Health Issues Survey 2016 said extra funding and resources to support the recruitment and retention of doctors and other health professionals was their top priority in trying to meet the health care needs of their patients.

In a sign of the growing use of, and reliance on, internet-based communications and data, the survey found access to high speed broadband has jumped as a priority since the last survey in 2007, and is now ranked second in importance.

Rural doctors also attached great significance to ensuring country hospitals have modern facilities and equipment, and that more should be done to encourage and support the training of doctors in rural areas.

“To close the health gap with other Australians, we have to ensure people living in country areas can get to see a doctor or go to a hospital when they need it.

“We have record numbers of medical school places and, with sufficient numbers of medical graduates coming through, the focus must now be on how we can get them to work in the places they are needed the most.

“Unfortunately, both major parties appear to be taking rural Australia for granted. Neither has made major policy commitments to rural health so far in this election campaign, and they need to step up now.”

Last month the AMA released its Plan for Better Health Care for Regional, Rural, and Remote Australia, and Dr Gannon urged the major parties to adopt its recommendations.

“To close the rural-city health gap, it is essential that policies and resources are tailored to cater for the unique demands of rural health care,” the AMA President said.

The AMA Plan proposes a focus on four key areas – rebuilding country hospital infrastructure; supporting recruitment and retention of doctors; encouraging more young doctors to work in rural areas; and supporting rural practices.

“Addressing and investing in these measures will make a long-term difference to the health of Australians living in rural communities,” Dr Gannon said.

The AMA’s policy recommendations are reflected in the results of the Rural Health Issues Survey.

Doctors who took part said that for there to be genuine improvements in access to health care for rural patients, there needed to be:

  •  funding and resources to support improved staffing levels and workable rosters for rural doctors;
  •  access to high speed broadband;
  •  investment in hospital and practice infrastructure;
  •  expanded opportunities for medical training and education in rural areas;
  •  improved support for GP proceduralists; and
  •  better access to locum relief.

The AMA Rural Health Issues Survey 2016 can be viewed at:


The AMA Plan for Better Health Care for Regional, Rural, and Remote Australia is at


Remote Australians need investment in their health care

Report after report has shown that the health status of remote Australians is worse than both city and rural populations on almost every indicator.

Kim Webber, CEO of the National Rural Health Alliance says “The facts, sadly, speak for themselves.  And despite having the highest health care needs, this highly dispersed population also has the worst access to health services.”

Providing health services to the population of remote Australia is challenging.  The distances are vast and the majority of the remote towns have populations of less than 1,000 people.

“As a country we are failing the half a million people who live in remote Australia.  Difficulties accessing health services means poorer management of illness.  We see the devastating results of this through increased rates of ill health, hospitalisation and premature death.”

“Providing services to these towns is difficult – ensuring sustainability of services is even more difficult.  But health services are a necessity and more effort needs to be given to how best to ensure that all Australians can access the health services they require at the time they need them.  It is time for our political leadership to take notice of remote Australians and consider more flexible models of providing healthcare in these areas to meet local needs”, she said.

The National Rural Health Alliance encourages all voters to find out what the major parties and local candidates will do to improve access to health services in remote Australia and case their vote accordingly

 The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM)

 “ACCRM Is urging all major political parties to demonstrate their commitment to improving health outcomes for rural Australians through investmentsand policies designed to recruit and retain rural doctors who can meet the diverseand often complex health care needs of rural Australians.

College President, Professor Lucie Walters said that in its election statement ACRRM had identified a number of policy priorities which would deliver the ‘right’ doctors to rural and remote communities and keep them there.

“One of the ACRRM key election policy priorities is the introduction of a National Rural Generalist Pathway,” she said.

“This would provide a clearly structured and supported national mechanism by which medical students and junior doctors who have an interest and aptitude for rural practice could be provided with a structured training pathway to achieving vocational qualifications, with appropriate recognition for advanced skills practice.

“Rural and regionally based training, including opportunities for doctors-in-training to experience rural general practice are important components of the Pathway.”

Professor Walters said while some welcome commitments had been made by all parties during the election campaign, no party had committed to a full suite ofpolicies to deliver a coordinated rural health care plan.

“The National Rural Generalist Pathway should be supported by rurally-focussed incentive programs and remuneration models which recognise high quality comprehensive rural general practice and fund improved models of care for chronic disease,” she said.

“Funding for improved infrastructure in rural hospitals, health care facilities and private practices is also important to ensure equitable standards of care across Australia, as is the lifting of the freeze on indexation for MBS rebates.”

Professor Walters noted the significant contribution made by rural communities to the nation’s economy and social fabric, and said that support for a National Rural Generalist Pathway would send a clear signal to these communities that their health care needs are recognised.

“ACRRM calls on all political parties to confirm their intention to work to improve health outcomes in rural communities,” she said.

“Support for a National Rural Generalist Pathway is an important first step.”



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