National purse strings may be tight but people in rural and remote areas are holding out for things they have been promised that they trust they will not lose, and for some modest new spending to improve access and equity for rural people.
Non-negotiable promises include funding according to need for rural schools as part of the Gonski reforms; funding for DisabilityCare Australia; ongoing funding for enhanced public dental health services for children and people with special need; and a ‘fix’ to the current system used for the classification of rurality.
In addition, new and better directed expenditure is expected as a result of the Mason Report into health workforce programs. Augmentation and rationalisation of successful health workforce programs is expected along the ‘life course’ of recruitment, education, training and support for health professionals in rural and remote areas.
For many years governments have invested in training greater numbers of health professionals, and now the emphasis needs to turn to their spatial distribution.
Despite these initiatives relating to supply, Health Workforce Australia has predicted shortages of 80,000 registered nurses and 30,000 enrolled nurses by 2025. The Mason Report should therefore propose specific new initiatives for the nursing workforce, in particular in rural and remote areas.
In general, rural health workforce programs must build the integrated health care team, and so encompass health service managers, medicine (GPs and specialists), nursing and midwifery, all allied health (including optometry and exercise science), oral health (including dentists), pharmacy, chiropractic and paramedicine.
Other important rural expectations of the Budget include high speed broadband, reduced smoking rates, telehealth, and crush protection devices on quad bikes.
Further details of these expectations are in the Attachment to this release.
Gordon Gregory, Executive Director, 02 6285 4660