The Albanese Labor Government continues to politicise the health of regional Australians rather than take real action, Shadow Assistant Minister for Regional Health Anne Webster says.
On Wednesday, Health Minister Mark Butler will announce a review into the Monash Modified Model, the District of Workforce Shortage and Distribution Priority Areas (DPAs), which effect the distribution of doctors throughout Australia.
“I have been calling for a review of all of these challenges for months but Minister Butler fails to acknowledge his Government bled the regions of doctors by expanding the DPAs,” Dr Webster said.
“He opened the door for International Medical Graduate Doctors to leave the regions for peri-urban settings, with exits from regions increasing by 57 per cent in the first 6 months after his policy change. This has been a major factor in GP clinics closing in Mallee and around Australia.
“Regional health is in crisis, as I have been saying since my appointment as Shadow Assistant Minister in December. Action and funding is needed to address regional health issues now, not after another review that will only confirm what regional Australians and our health workforce already know. In fact, the Coalition set a number of these reviews in motion 20 months ago.
The Minister’s announcement comes after the Coalition-instigated Strengthening Medicare Taskforce which recommended the creation of an independent workforce planning agency, expanded training pathways for doctors in regional and remote areas and greater incentives for practitioners to work in regional Australia. These were already key initiatives of the Coalition Stronger Rural Health Strategy.
“Minister Butler’s proposed Distribution and Thin Markets Review shows how thin the Albanese Labor government has been on action, thin on funding and thin on caring about the plight of regional Australians,” Dr Webster said.
“The Coalition’s strategy included a range of incentives, targeted funding and bonding arrangements that give doctors more opportunities to train and practice in rural Australia. It also strengthened the role of nurses and allied health professionals to deliver more multidisciplinary, team-based models of primary health care. Initiatives such as the Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network, Junior Doctor Training Program and More Doctors for Rural Australia program were all targeted to improve access to doctors for people in regional Australia.
“Regional Australians collectively are missing over $6.55 billion annually in spending on healthcare access compared to those in the city, according to the Nous Report commissioned by the National Rural Health Alliance.
“Without doctors providing primary care in regional Australia, the health costs are falling on stretched regional emergency departments. Only 6.5 per cent of total Government health funding goes to General Practice. Government spending on an equivalent visit to the GP is $80 compared to an Emergency Department visit for the same illness at over $600. Primary Care needs more funding as it keeps people out of hospital. Funding for Regional Primary Care is essential for efficient and effective regional health care delivery.”