The National Rural Health Alliance and Parliamentary Friends of Rural and Remote Health have conducted a rural health forum for Federal MPs and stakeholders in Parliament House to seek the political parties’ positions on a range of rural health issues and, importantly, solutions.
On a very hectic Parliamentary sitting day, Health Minister, Greg Hunt, Aged Care and Indigenous Health Minister, Ken Wyatt, Opposition rural health spokesman, Tony Zappia, and Greens leader, Senator Richard di Natale, sat on a panel to present their parties’ views on a series of issues highlighted by the Alliance Chair, who facilitated the session.
Some of the points raised by the panellists included:
- The Health Minister’s commitment to an increased focus on recruiting and training allied health professionals for the rural sector;
- The need for long term government health policy that goes beyond the usual 3 year political cycle to enable long term system changes to have effect
- Telehealth and telemedicine are potential game changers that could improve access to health care in remote areas but should not be seen as the silver bullet to fix all of the complex health issues in rural and remote health. It should be one of a suite of measures;
- Research is needed to develop service models that work and should be developed in the regions by the regions;
- Research should also be used to inform health policy, not sit on the shelf;
- Challenges in the rural health workforce are mirrored in the aged care and disability workforce, there must be an integrated view of all sectors to address the gaps and reduce duplication; and
- Indigenous people should be encouraged to work in their communities as they already have the necessary cultural insights into their own communities.
These views will be presented to the Alliance Board and Council and will be used as a basis for discussion at the 15th National Rural Health Conference in March, where the election “asks” will be collated and promoted on behalf of the rural health sector in the upcoming election campaign.