Speaking Rural Health to Australian Parliamentarians

Now back from Canberra where I met with other board members of Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health SARRAH, and the National Rural Health Alliance NRHA, and took some clear messages to many of the parliamentarians of all persuasions, about improving the funding arrangements for health services in rural and remote communities.

As a federal election looms, our delegations were received by more parliamentarians than ever before. With the Commonwealth budget in a very comfortable surplus, there was a sense from government and shadow ministers that more can, even WILL, be done. There is some concern that that same surplus might be seen as a toybox for political leverage by whoever is in power. So that, rather than an increasingly rational health system in Australia, we have more and more ‘programs’ and spots of spending that are not integrated into a system. Such an approach would lead to an increase of expenditure while still not delivering to the most needy in the nation.

Well, we have made our points on creating a national health policy and exacting rural equity within that policy. We have argued for strategies to encourage more rural youth into health professions through scholarships, and providing vauable rural experience through a undergraduate rural clinical placement scheme available to city and rural students. Both of these are key to increasing the health workforce in rural Australia. We have argued better oral health services. I was astounded to find that there are only .9 oral hygienists per 100,000 popn in rural and remote Australia.

SARRAH was pleased to have our first oral hygienist and aboriginal health worker at our Canberra summit. See my flickr site for photos of the meetings and visit to Parliament house.

The NRHA also organised a half day public seminar on the health of refugees in rural communities. Held at the war memorial lecture theatre it was well attended and included 2 sudanese refugees (“don’t call us refugess after we are settled in”) who now live in a rural town.

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