RURAL HEALTH - A CONTRIBUTION THAT DESERVES THANKS AND FOLLOW THROUGH  

Date: 
26/06/2020

Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health (SARRAH) is the peak body advocating for allied health services and access in rural and remote Australia.

SARRAH applauds the contribution of outgoing National Rural Health Commissioner, Professor Paul Worley, toward improving health access and equity. Professor Worley finishes in his role as Commissioner at the end of this month.  We thank him, especially, for his report on Improvement of Access, Quality and distribution of Allied Health Services in Regional, Rural and Remote Australia. This work has illuminated the chronic shortfall in allied health services and presented a coherent plan to address the issue.  The Report, for Regional Health Minister, the Hon Mark Coulton MP, was released last Friday. The Commissioner has identified priorities and a practical agenda to address these shortages fundamentally.  

“This is a clear, informed and considered Report. It provides a focus for serious and urgent action”, said SARRAH President, Rob Curry. “Professor Worley has shown a genuine commitment to engage meaningfully across a range of stakeholders, to understand issues and concerns, and to develop considered advice. If that advice is taken on board and followed through it will make a big difference to the quality of health care available to the seven million people living in rural Australia.”

SARRAH wants to thank, also, Minister Coulton for supporting this vital agenda and for ensuring the continuation of the Commissioner role, and expansion of the commissioner’s Office.  This, too, is a major and very positive development. 

“While Australia enjoys one of the best health and social service systems in the world, not everyone has the access they need or most of us assume is available”, said SARRAH Chief Executive, Cath Maloney. “Essential services, like health care, need to be designed to work for people where they live; whether it’s in the suburbs, towns, farming areas or Aboriginal communities on traditional lands.”

In August last year Minister Hunt launched Australia’s Long Term National Health Plan. The Plan notes “The Commonwealth Fund ranks Australia’s health system number two in the world. This is based on measures of quality, efficiency, access to care, equity, and outcomes—the ability to lead long, healthy, and productive lives” and “Our goal: to make Australia’s health system the world’s number one.” Of the 11 countries compared, Australia ranks number two. What stops Australia being number 1 is our ranking on access (4) and equity (7).  If we want to be number 1 it’s clear where we need to improve.

“It’s more than coincidence that the highest levels of chronic disease, premature death, avoidable hospitalisations and suicide are also where it’s hardest to access health care, including allied health professionals”, said Cath.  As the Commissioner states, in beginning the Executive Summary of his report;

“Allied Health professionals are essential to the physical, social and psychological wellbeing of people living in rural and remote Australia.  They are integral to the care of rural and remote communities, whose capacity to achieve optimal health outcomes is limited by inequitable access to appropriate health services.”   

While Governments don’t collect data about all allied health professionals or where they provide services, they know enough to show people living outside of Australia’s cities have access to half or less the number of allied health professionals on a population basis: including psychologists, speech pathologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, optometrists, medical radiation practitioners, podiatrists and other allied health professions.

There are real opportunities to address these issues now. The recommendations in the Report are even more important given the risks and impacts of COVID-19.  The future health and wellbeing of rural and remote communities depends on coherent action that keeps up the momentum of the Commissioner’s work to date.  

“Many of us have argued for this important work to be done for a very long time. This Report by Commissioner Worley is real cause for optimism”, said Ms Maloney.

 

Please direct interviews and media enquiries to: Catherine Maloney

Chief Executive Officer

Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health

catherine@sarrah.org.au   0491 209 291

 

SARRAH is the peak body representing rural and remote allied health professionals (AHPs) working in public, private and/or community settings SARRAH advocates on behalf of rural and remote Australian communities.  SARRAH maintains that every Australian should have access to health services wherever they live, and the allied health services are fundamental to the well-being of all Australians. 

SARRAH represents 27 different allied health professions, including: Audiology; Medical Imaging; Paramedics; Chinese Medicine; Nuclear Medicine; Pharmacy; Chiropractic; Radiation Therapy; Physiotherapy; Dental and Oral Health; Health Promotion; Podiatry; Dentistry; Occupational Therapy; Prosthetics; Dietetics and Nutrition; Optometry; Psychology; Diabetes Education; Orthoptics; Speech Pathology; Exercise Physiology; Orthotics; Social Work; Genetic Counselling; Osteopathy; Sonography