Date Published: 12 March 2009

Rural Australians abandoned in health debate

Health News from Australia.

Fears that rural Australia has been abandoned in the health debate were raised by doctors today at a meeting of the Federal Council of the Australian Medical Association in Canberra.

Chair of the AMA rural medicine Committee, Dr David Rivett, reported that rural doctors had been ‘bitterly disappointed’ by the recommendations of the government’s National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission.

They haven’t listened to rural Australia,” Dr Rivett said.

It appears their only solution to the temporary shortage of GPs is to permanently lower health standards in the bush.

Their clear message is, if you don’t live in an urban area, you don’t deserve to see a doctor. The proposed solution of replacing doctors with lesser-qualified health professionals abandons all principles of equity of care.

Rural Australia deserves better.

The only sensible solution is to develop policy that gets GPs back into the bush. We are already seeing graduating doctors expressing a growing interest in the challenges of rural medicine.

The simple solution is to encourage this trend, train more doctors and set up the incentives for them to move into rural areas.”

Dr Rivett said the NHHRC’s proposals for universal casemix funding of hospitals would also hit smaller hospitals.

This would be a death knell for small rural hospitals. The measure for rural hospitals can’t be occupancy rates – the real measure is the essential, often life saving, services they provide.

The recommendations are deeply disappointing.

We need assurances from government that they will reject the defeatist notion that rural Australians must accept a lower standard of care.

Rural communities need nurses and doctors, not nurses instead of doctors.”



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