Abbott Government Cuts and Runs on Rural Health

Labor’s spokesperson for Rural and Regional Health, Stephen Jones, has called on the Abbott Government to finally disclose the full details of its cuts to rural health services.

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In Question Time today, the Shadow Assistant Minister for Health, Senator Fiona Nash, was asked exactly how much money has been cut from the Rural Health Outreach Fund (RHOF) and which rural services will be affected.

Senator Nash refused to provide any details despite multiple requests from Labor Senators asking that she address the substance of the question.

The RHOF aims to improve access to medical specialists, GPs, allied and other health providers in rural, regional and remote areas of Australia. Its funding has been cut alongside other valuable health programs

The Government has also cut more than $960 million from a range of health programs, including a cut to the Dental Relocation and Infrastructure Support Scheme, which offers incentives for dentists to relocate to smaller rural centres.

This all comes on top of communities in the bush bearing the full brunt of the Government’s continued assault on Medicare.

This Budget confirms that the Government remains 100 per cent committed to freezing Medicare rebates until 2018, a direct breach of a National Party pre-election promise.

The Medical Journal of Australia has stated that this new GP tax by stealth, the rebate freeze could actually cost patients more than the Government’s first GP Tax by 2018. In the bush, where incomes are lower and health needs are great, it will have a particularly harsh impact on patients.

Many rural medical practices, that service struggling communities, are already operating on tight margins and are stretched to meet demand as it is.

Labor calls on the Abbott Government to reveal exactly how much has been cut from rural health and exactly which services will suffer. 

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