The one in three Australians who live and work in rural and remote Australia must be wondering what a Coalition Government, if elected next week, has in store for rural and remote health.
The Coalition's Policy to Support Australia's Health System has been welcomed by the NRHA as including proposals that "would fill some rural gaps". Specifically, country people will welcome funding for additional GP consultation rooms for supervising registrars and medical students in rural and remote locations, and investment in additional scholarships for nursing and allied health.
However, unlike the ALP and the Greens, the Coalition has said little more about how it intends to remove the inequities in health and health services currently experienced by country people.
At the launch of the NRHA's Election Scorecard two weeks ago, Andrew Laming, speaking on behalf of the Coalition, indicated that he expected the Liberal-National Coalition to score well on the 35 specific points put to all major parties by the Alliance. No response is yet in.
And the National Party has not produced anything about rural health specifically for the election campaign. The Coalition’s election documents include almost no mention of the health content of the Nationals' policy platform published earlier in 2013.
The potentially interesting but apparently un-endorsed elements of the Nationals' platform include "a single policy for regional health programs"; a specific regional unit in the Department of Health; equivalent funding for MBS for rural people (at a cost of $143 million); Medicare billing of allied health professionals without a doctor's referral; and greater access to MBS for those with mental illness.
The Nationals’ 2012-13 platform document also promises 'guaranteed service levels' for key regional hospitals in maternity, mental health, accident and emergency and public dentistry; redirection of money for super clinics to public hospitals; funding for more aged care beds in regional areas; retraction or amendment of the ten-year moratorium for Overseas Trained Doctors; a program for succession planning for health workers; mandatory reporting on rural aspects of medical education; a parliamentary enquiry into AHPRA; support for more regional medical schools; a trial of mobile health service models for dental and minor surgery; support for fluoridation; "a specific healthcare agreement" for regional and remote Australians; and compulsory hearing tests for all primary school children.
The people of rural and remote areas would welcome information about the Coalition's position on these.
Lesley Barclay - Chair: 0412 282 801
Gordon Gregory - Executive Director: 02 6285 4660