31 August, 2023
Call for regional health investment
THE National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has called on state, territory and federal governments to urgently address the $6.5 billion annual shortfall in health expenditure in Australia’s regional and remote communities.
A report released by the National Rural Health Alliance has found inequality between rural and metropolitan Australians, amounting to nearly $850 per person, in spending across hospital, community, aged care, the disability sector, and ancillary care.
“We have all been aware of the significantly worse health outcomes for rural Australians for some time. What this report highlights is that models of care and service delivery, funding structures and incentives, designed for city populations and healthcare systems, aren’t working in the bush,” NFF president Fiona Simson said.
“And as country people know very well, there’s great diversity among regional and remote communities, each presenting their own unique set of challenges and needs.
“Which makes it concerning we have no current nationally agreed strategy bringing together a range of innovative models, funding structures and incentives to address this unacceptable disparity in health outcomes between Australians.
“If a national rural health strategy isn’t on the agenda at the next National Cabinet meeting, we need to be asking serious questions of our leaders and their commitment to the regions.”
The NFF joined the Alliance in calling for the funding of a place-based multidisciplinary model of primary health care in rural locations that gives service providers the flexibility to engage communities and address local needs in partnership.
The NFF also restated calls for greater investments in mental health support, tailored specifically for farming communities, to address a growing wellbeing crisis brought into sharp relief by recent research.
Commissioned by Norco and supported by the NFF, the National Farmer Wellbeing Report found close to half of Australian farmers (45 per cent) have had thoughts of self-harm or suicide, while nearly a third have attempted self-harm or suicide.
“We remain firmly committed to our Regionalisation Agenda and believe there are enormous benefits for the nation from unlocking the potential of our regions,” Ms Simson said.
“But we can’t be encouraging business and families to relocate where we refuse to make the investments and adaptations necessary to ensure their safety and wellbeing.
“To say nothing of the obligations we have to Australians already living regionally who together create so much of our national wealth, including 80 per cent of all exports.”