Senate committee report offers sensible solutions to improve rural health
The AMA welcomes the recommendations of the Senate Community Affairs Committee rural health report, released today, especially the acknowledgement that the Australian Standard Geographical Classification – Remoteness Area (ASGC-RA) system needs to be scrapped.
The Committee investigated the factors that are affecting the supply of health services and medical professionals in rural areas of Australia.
AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said that the report puts the spotlight on the significant problems that people have in accessing medical services in rural communities.
Dr Hambleton said the report’s findings reflect many of the problems identified in the AMA Regional/Rural Workforce Initiatives Position Statement, released earlier this year.
“We are pleased that the Committee has identified the significant weaknesses apparent in the application of the ASGC-RA classification system that underpins Commonwealth programs to support the rural medical workforce, and recommends that it be replaced,” Dr Hambleton said.
“The AMA has been calling for an independent review of this system, which sees many small rural areas being eligible for the same incentive structures that apply to much larger towns. There are too many inequities.
“The Committee has also questioned the multitude of State and Federal programs to support the rural medical workforce and suggests a review to ensure that gaps in these arrangements are properly addressed.
“The report has a strong focus on supporting teaching and training in rural areas and increasing efforts to encourage more rural students to study medicine.
“The AMA fully supports these approaches, which need to incorporate appropriately funded incentives rather than the current draconian system of unfunded bonding of students to rural areas.
“Another welcome recommendation is the need to ensure that Government reforms to after hours GP services do not result in funds being withdrawn from general practices that are currently providing after hours services.
“Medicare Locals will soon be allocating funds for after hours services. The AMA has stressed the need to preserve and support services that are currently working effectively.
“The report opens up the option of expanding funding incentives to other health professions and this will be closely looked at in an upcoming Government review of rural workforce programs.
“While the AMA supports this approach, we do not want to see funding diverted from existing successful programs that support the recruitment of doctors to rural areas.
“The AMA is keen to work with the Government to implement many of the Committee’s recommendations to improve access to high quality medical services for people in rural areas.”
The AMA Position Statement on Regional/Rural Workforce Initiatives 2012 is at http://ama.com.au/position-statement/regionalrural-workforce-initiatives-2012
23 August 2012
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