Turnbull govt reveals new approach on regional health

Malcolm Turnbull... pledging a new deal for regional residents on healthcare.
Malcolm Turnbull... pledging a new deal for regional residents on healthcare.

DISADVANTAGES in rural health will become a key focus if the Coalition is re-elected, with the Turnbull Government revealing its vision to improve health outside metropolitan areas.

Minister for Rural Health Fiona Nash has unveiled her plans to appoint Australia's first ever National Rural Health Commissioner and establish a National Rural Generalist Pathway if the Coalition wins the July 2 poll.

One of the Commissioner's will be first tasks will be setting up the pathway and providing a report on how to reform the sector.

The announcement comes as the Fair Go for the Regions campaign has worked to shine a spotlight on reduced health outcomes in rural, remote and regional areas.

Already the Government has moved to close a loophole that meant money from a fund for regional Australia had been drained by metropolitan applications.

Data from the Australia Social Health Atlas reveals Australians living outside capital cities have shorter lives, must wait longer for treatment and have poorer health outcomes from a lack of resources.

Ms Nash said she would work hard to correct this disadvantage, with the Commissioner acting as a champion health outside metropolitan areas.

"Rural, regional and remote Australians deserve better access to medical professionals and this policy will help deliver that," she said

"Rural Australians don't expect a brain surgeon or a cardiologist on every corner, but they rightly expect access to quality health services, comparable to their city counterparts.

"Over the past decade, we have seen a substantial rise in the number of medical graduates in Australia.

"Yet many parts of rural and remote Australia still struggle to attract and retain the right types of doctors with the right mix of skills.

"We have a flood of medical professionals in the cities yet we have a drought of medical professionals in the country areas. This policy is a big step forward to addressing that."

Because specialist doctors are in short supply in remote areas rural GPs, sometimes known as rural generalists, often need a diverse skills set in advanced areas such as general surgery, anaesthetics and mental health.

The National Rural Generalist Pathway will work to provide more doctors with advanced training and skills in areas where specialists are limited.

Ms Nash said the Rural Health Commissioner would encourage doctors with a broad selection of advanced skills to practice in the bush.

"We need to get the right medical professionals with the right skills in the right places," she said.

"As a rural person who lives hours from a major city myself, I understand rural Australia needs more medical professionals and this Pathway will help deliver them.

"Queensland has a good model but we need a national approach.

"Extra recognition and financial incentives for Rural Generalists will help attract more medical professionals to the bush and help keep the ones we already have.

Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Dr Ewen McPhee said the announcement had the capacity for real change.

"This would be a significant step towards achieving greater equality of healthcare for rural and remote Australians and shows a real commitment from the Coalition to improving their health outcomes."

Topics:  fairgo federal election 2016 fiona nash malcolm turnbull

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