The Australian Regional Health Group is calling on political parties to commit to making regional health a Cabinet portfolio in the next federal government.
The ARHG is asking this on behalf of the seven million Australians who live and work in regional Australia who need their health care to be made a priority area for government with a focus on redressing inequities between regional and metropolitan areas.
ARHG chief executive officer Andrea Selleck said people living in rural and remote areas have shorter lives, higher levels of chronic disease and injury as well as poorer access to health services compared with people living in metropolitan areas.
“As a voice of regional health care, the ARHG firmly believes it is not acceptable that people in regional areas should be subject to, or accept, poorer health outcomes simply because of where they live.
“The current Cabinet of the Federal Government contains the portfolios of regionalisation, regional communications and regional education. This demonstrates an understanding that issues that specifically apply to regional Australia should be represented in Cabinet. However, the fact that regional health remains as an outer ministry portfolio is a serious oversight, placing the issue of improving regional health as being of lesser importance than other areas.
“The federal opposition doesn’t have regional health as a shadow ministry at all, despite having a Shadow Minister for Regional Development and a Shadow Minister for Regional Services. This means the issue of regional health is not being given the policy weight it not just deserves, but badly needs.
“All parties musty guarantee to make regional health a priority by having a Minister for Regional Health sitting in Cabinet following the election.”
The ARHG is asking parties to commit to a suite of policies to ensure regional health care is prioritised by the next government.
- Ensuring a Regional Health Ministry is maintained and made a Cabinet portfolio.
Prioritising regional health can only be done properly if a Minister for Regional Health is not only appointed but brought into Cabinet. Policy decisions need to be made at the highest level of government to ensure improvements for regional health outcomes. If the government is serious about regional health care, it must be made a Cabinet portfolio with the ability to make fundamental policy changes for better regional health care.
- Establish an expert working group to develop strategies to incentivise medical professionals to work in regional areas and improve regional health outcomes.
Addressing workforce issues in regional areas is of critical importance with health outcomes continuing to slide due to a simple lack of medical professionals. Responsibility must be taken for getting medical professionals to regional areas through policies informed by a working group with the skills and expertise to identify barriers and advise on solutions.
- Reinstate the full 30 per cent means-tested private health rebate for people on low and middle incomes.
The government must take a holistic view of our health care system and acknowledge that a strong private health system allows taxpayer resourcing of the public system to be maximised to provide care to those who need it most. People need to be given every incentive, particularly as cost-of-living issues are biting, to be able to stay out of the public system and avoid adding to extensive public surgery waiting lists.
Regional Australians continue to face significant barriers when it comes to accessing the health care they need. The ARHG is determined to give regional Australians a voice in improving regional health care.
Further information: Andrea Selleck, CEO, Australian Regional Health Group – 0416 278 408.