The Rural Health Deficit

Extracts from fact sheet 13/5/2016:
  • There is a total health deficit in rural and remote areas of at least $2.1 billion a year.
  • This equates to a shortage of 25 million services, …
  • Adding the Medicare, PBS and ‘other primary care’ deficits …, rural and remote aged care deficit of some $500 million. ….
  • The total rural primary and aged care deficit is therefore likely to be around $3.0 billion.

external link National Rural Health Alliance Inc fact sheet 27

Extracts from fact sheet 23/6/2016:

The death rates for a range of diseases is higher in remote Australia.

Death rates from the major causes of death in Australia are significantly higher in remote communities when compared with major cities:

  • Land transport accidents – almost five times more deaths
  • Diabetes – three times the number of deaths
  • Suicide – twice the number of deaths
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – 60% higher death rate
  • Coronary heart disease – 40% more deaths
  • Lung cancer – 40% more deaths

People in remote Australia die around three years earlier than people in the city, this is despite there being fewer older people living in remote communities.

Accessing health care

• General practitioners

Access to a GP is one of the services that people living in remote Australia value as vital .. .there is around 20% less Medicare funded GP activity compared with the same population in the city.

• Specialists

There are 80% less Specialists in remote Australia when compared to the major cities.

• Dental workforce
Remote Australia has access to only one third of the number of dentists of major cities.

• Allied health professionals

Access to allied health professionals is also an issue in remote Australia, particularly with regard to ongoing treatment and management of chronic diseases and for rehabilitation and recovery from significant illness or injury.

Per 100,000 population, there are:
42% fewer pharmacists, psychologists (65% fewer), podiatrists (68% fewer), physiotherapists (51% fewer), optometrists (68% fewer) and occupational therapists (65% fewer)

• Nurses
In contrast to the poor distribution of most health professionals in remote Australia, nurses are fairly evenly distributed across major cities, remote and very remote Australia.

Difficulty accessing health professionals can have serious consequences.  Using diabetes as an example, we know that the role of allied health practitioners, particularly podiatrists, in preventing hospitalisations and amputations due to diabetes is critical.

Without access to health professionals, people in remote Australia may need lengthy stays away from home and may also jeopardise continuing recovery after returning home creating a vicious cycle of increasing ill health.

external link National Rural Health Alliance Inc The health of people living in rural Australia

Fact sheets on an extensive range of health topics, external link National Rural Health Alliance Inc