In its Budget Submission to the Treasury, the NRHA has reiterated its strong support for the promised investments in oral and dental care, and a stronger system of care for the elderly.
Commitment by the Gillard Government to these two health and wellbeing priorities in the May Budget will do good things for people in rural and remote areas.
“It’s appropriate that at a time of fiscal restraint, oral health and aged care should be the main beneficiaries of new money. And the current national focus on rural affairs will ensure that people in country and isolated areas are properly served by new programs put in place,” according to Gordon Gregory, Executive Director of the Alliance.
There is an annual rural underspend on primary care of over $2 billion, some of which is due to the relatively poor access to dentists. The oral health of people in rural and remote Australia are worse than those of urban people, with about half the level of access to dentists as in the cities.
Immediate improvements in the national approach to dental care should focus on people in greatest need, who include those living in rural and remote Australia. This will require making more dentists and other oral health professionals available in country Australia.
Like people everywhere, many country folk want to stay at home and close to their friends as they age. For this to be practicable, there needs to be significant new investment in both aged care services in the home and in residential aged care facilities in medium to small country towns. These investments need to recognise the higher costs faced by domiciliary care and residential facilities in country areas, as well as staffing challenges they face.
The Productivity Commission has made recommendations on many of these issues, and has made the point that where populations are sparse, supplementary block funding and capital grants may be necessary to keep the services open.
The Alliance’s Budget Submission also proposes strong financial support for rural Medicare Locals and a special program to ensure that high speed broadband reaches the three per cent or so of Australian homes and businesses that are ‘hard to connect’.
Gordon Gregory - Executive Director: 02 6285 4660