WA Budget has a strong regional health focus

19 May 2011

The 31-member National Rural Health Alliance has welcomed the major commitment of the Western Australian Government to improved health services for regional areas of the State.
Dr Jenny May, Chair of the Alliance, said that today’s Western Australian State Budget shows the value to rural people of budget resources that are dedicated specifically to the regions, such as WA’s Royalties for Regions Program.
“Coupled with the rural emphasis given by the Commonwealth through its current regional priority rounds of the Health and Hospital (HHF) and Education Investment (EIF) Funds, such investments as these by State Health Departments can dramatically improve access for rural people to essential services like health and education,” Dr May said.
Following extensive consultation with local communities, the centrepiece of new spending on health in Western Australia will be the Southern Inland Health Initiative, funded under the Liberal-National Government's Royalties for Regions Program. It will provide $240 million over four years for the health workforce and for health services, and $325 million for health capital works over five years. This will be on top of Royalties for Regions investments already planned for places such as Busselton, Karratha, Carnarvon, Exmouth and Esperance.
There will be incentive packages for private GPs to attract new doctors to their practices, with the aim of providing the equivalent of 44 more doctors in towns in the southern inland region. It will engage country GPs in a new way of working to support the district network and the changing nature of the workforce and medical practice. The new medical model will be supported by visiting specialists and a team of health practitioners, backed up by telehealth.
This initiative was developed after extensive discussion with the communities, local governments and health providers of the southern inland area over a number of years, led through WA’s Country Health Service.
“It’s good to see a State Government moving to back up Medicare in a number of its regions. Medicare simply can’t reach areas where healthcare providers are in short supply, which contributes to the overall health underspend in rural and remote areas,” Dr May said.
Working together, Federal and State Governments can tackle the health disadvantage of people in rural areas and move towards the vision of good health and wellbeing in rural and remote Australia.