National role to look at rural health

While the delivery of public health services remains a state responsibility, there’s a glimmer of hope that rural health issues may be relieved with the promise of Australia’s first National Rural Health Commissioner.

The Rural Health Commissioner will be an independent and high-profile advocate for regional, rural and remote health, according to Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources and Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce.

Mr Joyce welcomed introduction of legislation into the House of Representatives by the Assistant Minister for Health, Dr David Gillespie, to establish the role of the Commissioner as part of reforms to regional and rural health in Australia.

“The Health Insurance Amendment Bill 2017 will establish Australia’s first ever National Rural Health Commissioner,” he said.

“The people of regional, rural and remote Australia are the heart and soul of our country, but their health outcomes are often diminished due to their remoteness and reduced access to health services. The Coalition Government is determined that this be addressed.

“The role of the National Rural Health Commissioner is to be an independent advocate, giving us frank advice on regional and rural health reform and representing the needs and rights of regional, rural and remote Australia.”

Minister Gillespie said the Coalition Government is providing $4.4 million to establish the new Commissioner, who will work with communities, the health sector, universities, specialist training colleges and across all levels of government to improve rural health policies and champion the cause of rural practice.

“The very first task of the Commissioner will be to develop a National Rural Generalist Pathway, to improve access to training for doctors in regional, rural and remote Australia. Appropriate remuneration for Rural Generalists, recognising their extra skills and longer working hours, will also be under consideration,” Minister Gillespie said.

The community relies on rural health professionals to have courage and the skill-set to meet all kinds of challenges.

Dr David Gillespie

“The community relies on rural health professionals to have courage and the skill-set to meet all kinds of challenges.  They form the heart of health care for many communities, and the National Rural Health Commissioner will be their champion, and the champion of rural communities everywhere.” 

While the Commissioner’s first priority is the development of the medical generalist pathway, the Commissioner’s role will be much broader and will give consideration to the nursing, dental health, Indigenous health, mental health, midwifery and allied health needs in regional, rural and remote Australia