Minister reports on next steps for improving rural health

23 February 2011

Minister reports on next steps for improving rural health
Minister Roxon reported today to Independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor on some of the health elements of the agreement between the two crossbenchers and the Gillard Government. The National Rural Health Alliance attended the briefing in its capacity as the peak non-government organisation for rural and remote health.
A major topic of discussion was the Government‟s health reform agenda, in particular how Medicare Locals in rural and remote areas are going to succeed with the challenging tasks expected of them.
Minister Roxon confirmed that plans are in train to meet the commitment made to the Independents - and supported by the Alliance - for the establishment of a strong rural health agency to overview a „whole of government‟ approach to rural and remote health.
Jenny May, Chair of the Alliance, said the new rural health agency will have both public accountability and policy responsibilities. It will champion a broad range of programs and polices relating to rural health and wellbeing, and play a central role in securing public reports on the outcomes of policy.
“Public accountability on both equity and efficiency can be enhanced through more targeted data, public reporting, and continued political commitment to the circumstances faced by people in rural and remote areas,” Dr May said.
The next few months will see the basis laid for action on the Government‟s commitment to shift the centre of gravity in health care from hospitals to primary care. Everyone seems to agree that greater equity for the people of rural and remote areas is a key and that it is also important to scrutinise the efficiency with which health resources are spent. The work done by Medicare Locals in rural areas will be expected to deliver returns on both equity and efficiency.
Representatives of the 31 organisations in the Alliance attended the meeting from rural and remote locations around Australia. They recommitted Alliance efforts to work closely with government at this time of unparalleled opportunity for improvement in regional policies and programs impacting on health.
“The people of rural and remote Australia are looking for collaborative action in four key areas: sufficient funding for the new Medicare Locals, mental health, dental health and the provision of support for ageing and aged care in the bush,” Dr May said.
The Alliance sees regular reporting with government on its regional commitments as key milestones in the journey to equal health for rural people by 2020.
Further Contacts
Dr Jenny May - Chair: 0427 885 337
Marshall Wilson - Mdia: 0425 624 100