Equitable disability care in rural areas: a challenge worth meeting

03 May 2013

Those who attended this week's Roundtable on the rural and remote challenges facing DisabilityCare Australia (formerly NDIS) will welcome the decision to secure the scheme through an addition to the Medicare levy.

There is support for the new scheme but not, as yet, generalised understanding of how it will work. The information and communication challenges relating to DisabilityCare Australia (DcA) are yet to be comprehensively met. In many areas even people closely involved with disability, whether as clients, carers or clinicians, know little about what is intended and how it will affect their own circumstances.

The Roundtable was held to make a contribution towards the planning and evolution of DisabilityCare Australia in such a way as will ensure it is ‘fit for purpose’ in rural and remote areas. When the new scheme is mature and complete (which will take a decade or more), it must provide equally for all people with a disability, irrespective of where they live.

Those with lived experience of a disability often attest to the high-quality treatment provided by GPs, medical specialists and emergency services in the acute phase of their condition. It is when the client or patient moves from the acute health system to rehabilitation and disability care that the real service deficits in rural and remote areas become so telling.

The services which are missing and which do so much for a family caring for someone with a disability are not only those provided by health professionals. Often a major contribution is made by non-professional workers: respite care of the appropriate type and at the appropriate time; help with transport or meals; or assistance with painting or rubbish removal.
Hopefully Medicare Locals will hear these views and will be provided with the wherewithal to help in such areas – so they will be true primary health care organisations.

The Roundtable was addressed by Amanda Rishworth, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, who confirmed that DisabilityCare Australia will recognise the differences in providing disability services for people in rural and remote areas, and that the funding arrangements will accommodate these.

There remain a large number of unanswered questions. But rural and remote people concerned with disability will be gratified that the government and the new agency are vitally interested in the answers to those questions.

The Roundtable was organised by the National Rural Health Alliance in conjunction with the National Disability and Carer Alliance, and funded by FaHCSIA.

Media Enquiries: 

Gordon Gregory - Executive Director: 02 6285 4660