The Alliance is calling for a new model of rural health care that will benefit both health professionals and communities in rural, regional and remote Australia.
Australians living outside our cities and big regional centres have shorter lives, higher levels of disease and injury and poorer access to and use of health services. Despite governments providing a range of programs and initiatives over many years, there has been little change in the health outcomes of rural Australians. It is time for a new approach.
Rural Australians do not access Medicare or the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme at the same rate as metropolitan Australians. This means there is a deficit in health expenditure in rural Australia. The Alliance has calculated that this “rural health deficit” is now around $4 billion per annum.
The lack of access to health services driving the rural health deficit is due to a complex mix of factors including difficulty attracting and retaining a rural health workforce; lack of services, access to services and transport; lower socio-economic status; and people’s attitudes and health literacy.
We’ve been talking for many years about alternative models of care through place-based health and wellbeing networks. We have now badged our proposed model as RACCHOs – Rural Area Community Controlled Health Organisations.
Under the RACCHOs model, health professionals can be employed, with guaranteed income, as part of a multi-disciplinary team based in community-based health organisations that are affordable, accessible and provide a range of health services. RACCHOs would provide primary care, in-reach services for residential aged care facilities, support for NDIS recipients, support chronic disease management plans and DVA health care services.
Funding and governance are the key, with RACCHOs funded through combined Commonwealth and state/territory funding with some additional funding input to ensure sustainability, administration, and establishment costs. And the structure and governance would be flexible to accommodate local community circumstances and state/territory jurisdictional health system differences with strong community input.