Community-led innovation to revolutionise healthcare access in rural Australia

24 June 2024

Healthcare providers at the Mareeba and Communities Family Healthcare

The National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) is delighted that the Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Mark Butler, has today announced $16 million for innovative healthcare delivery trials through 11 innovative healthcare projects in rural and remote Australia.

One of the trial projects funded today will provide an opportunity to revolutionise healthcare delivery in rural Australia through a model first proposed by the Alliance and developed with communities, implemented in conjunction with Mareeba, far north Queensland with a population of approximately 12,000 people, and the

Mareeba and Communities Family Healthcare

 (MCFHC).

This community adds to Australia’s economy by producing mangoes, sugar cane, avocados, bananas, lychees, vegetables, pineapples, cashews, cotton, tea tree oil, coffee, beef cattle and chicken meat.

“We are pleased that the Minister sees the opportunity our proposed Primary care Rural Integrated Multidisciplinary Health Service (PRIM-HS) model will provide for rural communities, where the urban-based models do not work,” said the Alliance Chief Executive Susi Tegen.

The PRIM-HS model will be trialled for the first time at MCFHC under a $1.57 million grant. This is a community of volunteers who are passionate about their community having access to health services. They believe that as Australians living in the country, they deserve the same access to healthcare urban Australians do. They maintain that they can come up with local solutions by working with health clinicians, local government, industry, community and health stakeholders. 

“This is a fantastic opportunity for the Mareeba community to sustainably address unique local population health challenges, including workforce and lack of healthcare access and prioritise together, what they could deliver with collaboration. The grant also provides the ideal opportunity to lead the work recognised in the National Health Reform Agreement review process as a way forward for delivering primary health care in rural locations,” said Ms Tegen.

The PRIM-HS model, which is a community-led and co-designed model, has been a long-term call of the Alliance for community-based, not-for-profit organisations to deliver multidisciplinary primary health care services that meet the specific health and wellbeing needs of communities.

“We are committed to putting all our strength and expertise into this trial program by mentoring and providing support at a local level. We will be working with MCFHC in the overarching PRIM-HS implementation and evaluation, facilitate the governance model and background planning, as well as sharing learnings and findings with other primary healthcare entities across Australia,” Ms Tegen said.

“With evidence of a $6.55 billion annual underspend in rural health, the Alliance is pleased to see that steps are being taken in the right direction to improve the health and wellbeing of rural communities. As we progress the trial, we will be eager to share what is learnt and see the model being adapted in other communities across rural, regional and remote Australia to address the ongoing rural healthcare access and health outcomes challenges,” Ms Tegen added.

Media Enquiries: 

Kathya de Silva, Media and Communications Officer, National Rural Health Alliance, [email protected] 0470 487 608

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