Labor’s Rural and Regional Health Spokesperson, Stephen Jones, has called on Tony Abbott to listen to the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) and guarantee primary health care in the bush.
A report on access to health care in rural and regional Australia conducted by the Centre for International Economics is set to be released at Parliament House today.
Its examination of government and RFDS data presents a troubling picture:
- Death rates in very remote areas across Australia are 35 per cent higher than in our cities.
- Mental health services are accessed at just 20 per cent the rate of those in the city.
- Diabetes and cardiovascular disease are more prevalent in rural areas than in cities, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders 3.3 times more likely to have diabetes.
- RFDS patients saw GPs or nurses at an average rate of 0.5 per 1000, compared to the Australia-wide rate of 1.2.
- People living in the bush visit their GP half as often and die on average two years earlier than city residents.
Remote, rural and regional communities cannot survive without access to quality health services. This morning, the CEO of the RFDS, Martin Laverty, said that the report sent a clear message:
These statistics are confronting, but the report points to the solution. Expanding primary health service access in remote and rural areas would help address city-country health disparities.
Martin Laverty, RFDS, 26 March 2015
Unfortunately for people living outside of our cities Tony Abbott has been on a war path against primary healthcare in the bush and the sustainability of remote communities.
The Prime Minister’s dreaded GP Tax I, GP Tax II, GP Tax III and GP Tax IV as well as his plan to freeze Medicare rebates until 2018 demonstrate that he is not committed universal healthcare for all Australians regardless of where they live. His comment that taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidising the “lifestyle choice” of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote locations shows that he isn’t concerned about improving the lives of people in these communities.
The RFDS is an iconic institution and its health professionals tirelessly deliver services to remote, rural and regional Australia where otherwise people may not have access. We should all be incredibly thankful for the courageous work they undertake, which saves lives every day.
But they can’t do it on their own.
Tony Abbott must take healthcare in the bush seriously and ensure that Medicare is a system that works in rural and regional Australia as well as our cities.
Without a change in mindset and policies to match, the health disparities outlined in this report will only worsen and the RFDS will have to shoulder an even heavier load.