Alliance Chief Executive Susi Tegen in an interview with ABC Radio National Breakfast on 12 February 2024 called for fundamental changes to the way rural health is funded, given the $6.55 billion annual underspend on rural health.
Rural communities have been missing out on their fair share of health spending and this is in the context of the major contribution they make to our economy. Rural communities cannot rely on Medicare billing alone as workforce shortages prevail and they are not the economies of scale to ensure healthcare practices can be sustainable.
“We need a national rural health strategy [that links with those of our states and territories]. Without a strategy you are not going to have a benchmark,” said Ms Tegen.
This is one of the key proposals in the Alliance’s pre-Budget submission for the 2024–25 Federal Budget, which would set the priorities and drive tangible and sustainable healthcare solutions for rural populations.
The Alliance has a proposal to support rural primary health with a rural specific care and funding model that is community-led and takes into account local population health needs, links and supports existing services and is sustained with block funding to augment Medicare billing. This model is known as Primary care Rural Integrated Multidisciplinary Health Services (PRIM-HS).
“Solutions need to be place-based, community-led and involve all stakeholders of the region,” said Ms Tegen.
The Alliance has also sought funding for an evidence hub which would provide real time sharing of findings and learnings on rural health solutions.
Rural communities can be funded to undertake trials and innovation in their models of care but currently there is no clear way for communities to learn from each other and share successes and pitfalls.
The Alliance is calling for a ‘RuralHealthConnect Network’ to make information openly accessible to share rural health learnings and findings via the Australian Journal of Rural Health and the Alliance Network, including findings from local communities, translate research into practice solutions and establish communities of practice for rural health professionals and members of communities as well as to inform departmental policy in real-time.