A re-elected Coalition Government is investing more than $1 billion to boost rural health, including an additional $146 million in new funding to inject more doctors and allied health professionals into regional and rural communities and improve treatment and care for patients.
These investments are part of our 10-year Stronger Rural Health Strategy which is already delivering more doctors and nurses into rural communities and training the next generation of country doctors.
We are now building further on those key initiatives to target regional, rural and remote communities with immediate health workforce needs.
As part of this, $35 million in new funding will be provided to significantly expand the successful Innovative Models of Collaborative Care program across rural and regional Australia from January 1, 2023. The program will attract, support and retain rural health professionals to deliver care on the ground.
The Innovative Models of Collaborative Care program will help build local workforce, create greater linkages with rural medical schools and provide greater team-based care for patients through GPs and allied health care professionals across their local communities.
$15 million will be invested to expand the John Flynn Prevocational Doctor Program to more than 1,000 placements in rural Australia per year by 2026. This will train the next generation of junior doctors through placements in rural and regional general practice and prime them ready for the Australian General Practice Training Program.
Our plan will also support more GPs to work in country hospitals and treat patients in the community by expanding the Murrumbidgee single employer model trial to more regions across rural Australia.
This will allow more doctors training to be rural generalist GPs to work to the full scope of their skills and provide community and hospital-based services such as anaesthetics, obstetrics, mental health and emergency medicine.
We will invest $9 million for additional training posts outside of community general practice for rural generalists and GP registrars, and Fellowed GPs to undertake advanced skills training – like obstetrics, palliative care, paediatrics and mental health – that are needed in their community.
We will invest $87 million to provide additional workforce incentives to GP’s and allied health professionals to provide further targeted support to rural generalists with additional education and skills to work in the regions, and to support the engagement of nurses, nurse practitioners and allied health professionals as part of local multidisciplinary care teams.
GP catchments that were granted Distribution Priority Area (DPA) status under the exceptional circumstances review process will have their status extended for 12 months from 1 July 2022. This will provide medical practices in these areas with more time to recruit overseas trained doctors and bonded medical program participants to address workforce shortages.
This builds on our $550 million investment in the Stronger Rural Health Strategy announced in the 2018–19 budget and the approximately $300 million of additional investments in the recent 2022-23 Budget, including:
• $99.3 million for 80 additional Commonwealth Supported Places so more students can study medicine at rural campuses;
• $66 million to make it easier and more affordable to access Medicare funded MRI scans in all regional, rural and remote Australia from 1 November 2022;
• $36.2 million to establish two new University Departments of Rural Health (UDRH) in the South West (Edith Cowan University) and Goldfields (Curtin University) regions of Western Australia;
• $14.8 million to support Charles Sturt University to deliver a Rural Clinical School. We are also continuing support for the National Rural Health Students Network of Rural Health Clubs with $2.1 million over four years;
• An additional $33.3 million over four years towards a 10-year strategic agreement with the Royal Flying Doctor Service worth almost $1 billion; and
• $14.3 million to expand nursing and allied health student training in aged care to another five locations in the Northern Territory, Victoria, New South Wales and remote Queensland.
We are also incentivising more young doctors to work rurally. The Coalition introduced the elimination of the HELP debt for eligible doctors and nurse practitioners who work in rural towns and remote and very remote communities for specified periods.
Our Long Term National Health Plan builds on our strong pandemic response. Over the next decade, we will continue to improve the health care of all Australians and guarantee Medicare to ensure all Australians get the health care they need.
Telehealth has been made permanent and universal with 100 million new services to over 17 million people since its introduction in March 2020 with an investment of over $5 billion.
Labor can’t manage money, so they stopped listing life-changing medications on the PBS, cut mental health services, cut funding for the private health insurance rebates for families and threatened medical research funding.
Australians cannot trust Labor to manage the economy, or to manage their health care.
Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce said the Coalition Government is committed to giving Australians living in regional, rural and remote parts of our country access to the health services they need and deserve.
“One of the crucial issues we hear everywhere is about getting doctors out of capital cities and into regional areas. This, of course, is vastly more difficult to fix than to say but we are nonetheless giving it our greatest endeavours,” Mr Joyce said.
“These investments mark one step of many in this substantial task and follow on from things we have already delivered, such as allied health for Shepparton, the Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network, telehealth in Queensland, oncology in Dubbo and more.
“Geography shouldn’t be a barrier to health care and our plan to deliver more doctors and health professionals into regional and rural communities will boost our regional health workforce and ensure regional Australians can receive care close to home, just as people do in capital cities.”
Regional Health Minister, Dr David Gillespie, said as a former doctor he is focused on increasing access to services, reducing costs for patients and training a local medical workforce that is part of our regional and rural communities.
“It is well known that positive rural training experiences lead to more doctors and trainees staying in rural areas,” Dr Gillespie said.
“These measures – coupled with our investment through the Stronger Rural Health Strategy – will help rebuild the country hospital doctor workforce, incentivise more multidisciplinary teams and protect and preserve the long-term viability of rural general practice.
“Since launching the Stronger Rural Health Strategy in the 2018-19 Budget, the Coalition has already placed more than 5,000 full-time equivalent GPs, nurses and allied health professionals in rural, regional and remote Australia.”