The National Rural Health Alliance has welcomed the landmark decision by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to reform disability services through a National Disability Insurance Scheme and to move swiftly to develop guiding principles and sustainable funding models for such a scheme.
The Scheme would provide a commitment to lifelong high quality care and support for people with significant disabilities - irrespective of where they live. It would therefore be a valuable development for the people of rural and remote Australia who currently face significant barriers in accessing disability services.
COAG’s decision follows the release on 10 August of the Productivity Commission’s report on disability care and support which identified insufficient resourcing, and gaps in services in all jurisdictions and most locations. One of the objectives of the proposed Scheme will be to provide comparable lifelong care and support to people with similar levels of disability, regardless of the source of disability or the location of the person.
Accident- and illness-induced disabilities are a particular challenge for country people. Men who live outside Major cities are 18 per cent more likely to have a long term condition as a result of an injury and higher incidences of several debilitating chronic conditions than their urban counterparts. The rate of arthritis is 29 per cent higher, for bronchitis it is 42 per cent higher, and for cardiovascular disease 32 per cent higher than for city men.
Disabilities can also affect children, and often their rehabilitation will require suitably sized aids and equipment. Rural areas face greater challenges in ensuring equipment is repaired in a timely fashion when there are breakdowns. Visual disability (low vision and blindness) is a major issue in rural Australia and the risk of blindness is six times higher in Aboriginal communities.
People with a disability have a greater need of all forms of health care but a particular area of concern in rural areas is lack of access to occupational therapists, speech pathologists, physiotherapists and GPs. This will continue to be a challenge even with a Disability Insurance Scheme.
The Productivity Commission recognised the importance of block funding or government services to fill gaps in service delivery in rural and remote areas where market forces simply don’t apply.
The Alliance is currently examining the rehabilitation pathway in rural areas for people with traumatic brain injury or a sudden acquired brain injury. A particular focus of this work is on how to provide ongoing support and rehabilitation for them when they return from hospital to their own communities.
Dr Jenny May - Chair: 0427 885 337
Gordon Gregory - Executive Director: 02 6285 4660