The National Rural Health Alliance says rural patients need access to more than doctors and nurses.
The National Rural Health Alliance says rural patients need access to more than doctors and nurses. Contributed

How the new government could commit to better rural health

THE incoming Federal Government will need to immediately address the critical shortage of allied health professionals in rural, regional and remote Australia.

This is according to the National Rural Health Alliance, who said the government would need to make these changes to ensure healthcare was accessible.

CEO Mark Diamond said there had been considerable progress by previous governments in addressing rural doctor shortages.

"We acknowledge the Federal Coalition Government's $550 million commitment to fund 3000 additional doctors and 3000 additional nurses, but doctors and nurses won't do it," he said.

"We also need physiotherapists, psychologists, audiologists, social workers and many other allied health professions to be on the ground to provide the comprehensive care needed to address the woeful health statistics in our non-metropolitan regions."

The NRHA is recommending the government take four key approaches to healthcare.

These include funding an additional 3000 allied health care professionals and funding 20 demonstration sites in rural and remote regions with a workforce to match the needs.

They should establish a grants program to make sure Australians in rural, regional and remote areas have telecommunications connectivity so they can access healthcare remotely.

Grants to improve digital connectivity would also help make healthcare more accessible.

"We know that telehealth can deliver things like home-based rehabilitation, mental health care services and age care support," Mr Diamond said.

"We want communities to identify digital connectivity solutions for online health care that will work for their area and for the Federal Government to fund these solutions through a national grants program."

The fourth option for improving access to health care was to make Medicare rebates available for online or telehealth consults offered by GPs and other allied health professionals to people in outer regional and remote areas.

Medical rebates for telehealth consultations provided by doctors and psychologists to people in drought-affected areas are already in place.