The National Strategic Framework for Rural and Remote Health has a simple vision; that people in rural and remote Australia are as healthy as other Australians.
I want the Victorian Government to commit the resources necessary to make that vision a reality.
Every major national and state health organisation agrees rural and remote Australians have lower life expectancies, are less healthy and have poorer access to health care compared to urban Australians.
In the Rural and Regional Health Plan for 2012-2022, the Victorian Government recognises the need to increase the quality and accessibility of healthcare for regional Victorians.
The Plan was supposed to be a blueprint to close the gap between regional and urban healthcare services. That was back in 2011, and very little has changed since.
Gaps found in 2016-17 by the Australia Bureau of Statistics highlighted: 1 in 5 people living in regional and remote areas were left waiting for a GP appointment longer than was acceptable.
And that people living in regional and remote areas were almost twice as likely to report visiting the emergency department because a GP wasn’t available compared to people living in major cities
I welcome the Government’s recent announcement of an additional $50 million for the Regional Health Infrastructure Fund.
However, the focus of this new round of funding seems to be solely on hospital services with no funding for frontline health services. Increased hospital funding will not address any of the gaps identified by the ABS. A lack of access to frontline healthcare, especially GPs, delays treatment of low-level health concerns which can develop into much larger health concerns.
This election, the Victorian Farmers Federation is asking for a commitment to close the healthcare gap between urban and rural communities.
We want an expansion of health services in regional centres so that every Victorian can access the healthcare they deserve.
We want the government to develop standards for maximum travel times to access healthcare services.
And we want the government to provide funding for young health professionals to complete their training in rural and regional communities so as to create a pathway to regional employment.