“Australians living in remote and regional areas are dying preventable deaths from treatable conditions because of a lack of access to health services.
The damning assessment is contained in a new Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report on rural and remote health, which finds that those in the bush rely heavily on general practitioners to provide primary healthcare services in the absence of specialist doctors.
But patients most in need of GPs often can’t access them, with those in remote areas six times as likely as those in metropolitan centres to report they had no access to one.”
” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to have higher rates of chronic conditions, hospitalisations and poorer health outcomes than non-Indigenous Australians
The differences in health outcomes in Remote and Very remote areas may be due to the characteristics of these populations.
The proportion of the population that is Indigenous, is much higher in more remote areas
However, more Indigenous Australians live in Major cities and Inner regional areas (61% of Indigenous Australians) compared with Remote and Very remote areas (19%) “
From the AIHW Report see Part 2 Below
Download full report HERE
Part 1 The Australian media report
The report comes as The Australian revealed yesterday that the numbers of domestically trained doctors entering GP training had fallen for the third year in a row, with rural areas relying heavily on overseas-trained doctors to fill the workforce shortfall.
The AIHW report finds people in remote areas die five years before their city counterparts, with a life expectancy of 76 years.
More than 70 per cent of those living in regional areas are overweight or obese, less than one in 10 eat the recommended number of serves of vegetables per day, and one-quarter have high blood pressure or mental health problems.
Rural Australians are dying of diabetes at much higher rates than city dwellers, and many cancers go undetected because of a lack of access to screening programs.
“The rate of potentially avoidable deaths increased as remoteness increased,” the report says. “These are deaths among people aged 75 and under from conditions considered potentially preventable through individualised care, and/or treatment through existing primary or hospital care.”
The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine said the situation was a “tragedy”.
“We have a rural health crisis that extends right across from our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to our rural communities,” said college president Ewen McPhee.
“I think it’s a tragedy that rural communities continue to be neglected.”
In many tiny towns across the country, residents rely on the Royal Flying Doctor Service to provide access to a GP.
Yesterday in Stonehenge in remote central Queensland, doctor Arthur Beggs and nurse Jo Mahony flew in to provide the fortnightly mobile GP service for the town and surrounding areas of about 50 people.
“A lot of people don’t want to bother us unless they are really unwell and that’s really typical of the stoic, outback approach,” Dr Beggs said.
The RFDS has introduced a chronic disease management plan to the town, tracking baseline health measurements and flying specialist allied health practitioners in every few weeks to provide extra services.
Dr Beggs knows the challenges of being a rural GP, but says the difficulties are outweighed by the satisfaction of the work.
“I find rural and remote medicine fascinating and much more fulfilling than I do city-based medicine,” he said.
A recent report published by the Medical Deans of Australia found only 15 per cent of medical students in their final year of study said they were interested in becoming GPs, the lowest figure in five years.
Dr Beggs said attracting GPs to rural and remote areas was key to improving health outcomes in the bush.
“Modern medicine is all about specialties,” he said.
“The specialties can seem a more lucrative and controlled environment than the realms of general practice, which is unfortunate because general practice gives you a much better overview of people and their health.”
Profile of rural and remote Australians
For more information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health by remoteness see: The health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: 2015 and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework (HPF) report
Overall, more Australians live in Major cities compared with rural and remote areas
. In 2017, the proportion of Australians by area of remoteness was:
72% in Major cities
18% in Inner regional areas 8.2% in Outer regional areas 1.2% in Remote areas
0.8% in Very remote areas (ABS 2019b).
On average, people living in Remote and very remote areas were younger than those living in Major cities ( gures 1a and 1c).
Australians aged 25–44 were more likely to live in Remote and very remote areas and Major cities compared with Inner regional and outer regional areas. However, a higher proportion of people aged 65 and over lived in Inner regional and outer regional areas and Major cities, compared with Remote and very remote areas ( gures 1a, 1b and 1c).
Rural and remote Australia encompasses many diverse locations and communities and people living in these areas face unique challenges due to their geographic isolation.
Those living outside metropolitan areas often have poorer health outcomes compared with those living in metropolitan areas. For example, data show that people living in rural and remote areas have higher rates of hospitalisations, mortality, injury and poorer access to, and use of, primary health care services, compared with those living in metropolitan areas.
Health inequalities in rural and remote areas may be due to factors, including:
- challenges in accessing health care or health professionals, such as specialists social determinants such as income, education and employment opportunities higher rates of risky behaviours such as tobacco smoking and alcohol use
- higher rates of occupational and physical risk, for example from farming or mining work and transport-related accidents.
Despite poorer health outcomes for some, the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey found that Australians living in small towns (fewer than 1,000 people) and non-urban areas generally experienced higher levels of life satisfaction compared with those in urban areas (Wilkins 2015).
Rural and remote Australians also report increased community interconnectedness and social cohesion, as well as higher levels of community participation, volunteering and informal support from their communities (Ziersch et al. 2009).
Part 3 National : Closing the Gap / Have your say CTG deadline extended to Friday, 8 November 2019.
The engagements are now in full swing across Australia and this is generating more interest than we had anticipated in our survey on Closing the Gap.
The Coalition of Peaks has had requests from a number of organisations across Australia seeking, some Coalition of Peak members and some governments for more time to promote and complete the survey.
We want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to have their say on what should be included in a new agreement on Closing the Gap so it is agreed to extend the deadline for the survey to Friday, 8 November 2019.
This will help build further understanding and support for the new agreement and will not impact our timeframes for negotiating with government as we were advised at the most recent Partnership Working Group meeting that COAG will not meet until early 2020.
There is a discussion booklet that has background information on Closing the Gap and sets out what will be talked about in the survey.
The survey will take a little bit of time to complete. It would be great if you can answer all the questions, but you can also just focus on the issues that you care about most.
To help you prepare your answers, you can look at a full copy here
The survey is open to everyone and can be accessed here: