Labors Rural and Regional Health Spokesperson, Stephen Jones, has called on the Abbott Government to halt his attack on Medicare and focus on health outcomes in rural, regional and remote Australia.
A report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) today shows that discharges, transfers and deaths for potentially preventable hospitalisations (PPH) are much higher in the bush than in our major cities. The report also highlights that PPHs are particularly high in remote areas.
The findings demonstrate once again the importance of strong primary care services in the bush. These are the very services that have been repeatedly targeted by this Government, which is blind to the impact of its health policy on rural, regional and remote communities.
Tony Abbott has tried to convince the Australian public that the GP Tax is off the table in order to save his grip on the Prime Ministership. However, his Health Minister, Sussan Ley, has confirmed that the Government is still committed to the tax by stating that the policy intent was and remains a good one.
The Government must keep its hands off Medicare and start listening to people outside of metropolitan areas.
Discouraging people in the bush from seeing their GP is not the answer. Rather, the Government should be pursuing policies to recruit doctors to regional areas and improve rural health services.
People living outside our cities already suffer from poorer health outcomes, including high rates of chronic disease. They have inferior access to services and bulk billing rates are lower in the bush.
Many rural medical practices that represent struggling communities are operating on tight margins and struggle to meet demand.
As a result of these shortcomings people in rural areas are more likely to be admitted to hospital for problems that could have been prevented through other services such as their local GP. This will be disastrous in the long run because it costs much less for health problems to be dealt with by a GP compared to a hospital.
Labors demands are clear - we want the Government to listen to rural health experts, promise that they will keep their hands off Medicare and outline what they are going to do to improve healthcare in the bush.