The new edition of the Health Atlas, released today by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, is sobering reading. If you live outside Australia’s major cities, there is a significant gradient of increasing hospitalisations – in some cases in excess of 15 times the rate in major cities.
“Seven million people live outside the major cities of Australia and we know that they experience worse health outcomes than those who live in the cities. Even so, the results reported in the 2nd Edition of the Health Atlas are confronting,” said David Butt, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Health Alliance.
“Focusing on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the hospitalisation rate between the lowest and the highest rates of hospitalisation, the difference is 15.7 times higher, with nine of the ten highest rates being in remote communities. Looking at the number of hospitalisations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, I can only shake my head – the rates are almost five times higher on average, with the worst result in East Arnhem, where the hospitalisation rate is more than nine times the national average.
“And turning to diabetes, we see very similar results. All ten of the highest rates of hospitalisations are in remote areas, with the rate for the Barkly region in the NT over 11 times the national average.”
“Australia has a number of health strategies, but the focus on rural and remote health has been lost. Until we bring together actions to make a difference in regional and remote communities, focusing collectively, comprehensively and locally on the range of different risks and addressing the challenges in accessing timely health care, we will continue to see results like this” said Mr Butt.
“Australia’s National Strategic Framework for Rural and Remote Health is no longer in use and hasn’t been updated since 2011. Without an overarching Rural and Remote Health Strategy that brings together actions across the health system to drive better health outcomes in rural and remote communities, we will continue to see results like this: results that do not reflect well on our health system or on the level of care available to the seven million Australians living outside the major cities of Australia,” concluded Mr Butt.