Written by Home Doctor Brisbane Team

With a looming Federal election, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) is eager to influence the health policies that’ll be touted by the major parties.

It’s no surprise the industry body is particularly concerned by the “lack of high-quality health services” available to people in rural, remote and regional parts of the country.

AMA president Doctor Brian Owler says these areas require specific and specialised health policies and funding to ensure rural patients are not disadvantaged in comparison to people living in cities.

It’s why, for the first time in nearly 10 years, the AMA is running a Rural Health Issues Survey to seek feedback from doctors about what’s currently plaguing the industry and what needs immediate attention.

Creating a framework for rural health advocacy

“The survey will allow rural doctors to share their experiences and solutions, which in turn will help the AMA lobby governments for better policies,” Dr Owler said.

“Our last Rural Health Issues Survey was conducted in 2007. It allowed us to influence government decisions on issues such as locum relief, medical workforce, specialist outreach and patient assisted travel schemes.

“But new stresses and pressures have emerged over the last decade, and our policies must now respond to these changes.

“The best sources of information about what needs to be done to improve rural health and medical services are rural doctors and their patients.”

Good rural health policies will win votes: AMA says

The AMA wants to use the information collected from this survey to push major parties to prioritise rural health policy as they prepare to launch their election campaigns.

The National Rural Health Alliance is feeling positive about “new ideas” on the Federal Government’s agenda, but is concerned about fiscal barriers, after it made serious cuts to federal health funding in the last budget.

The Prime Minister did recently announce an extra $2.9 billion in hospital funding, however, it’s unclear if that will be allocated to regional facilities.

Meanwhile, political experts are predicting health (and further investment in the sector) as one one of the top three issues the Labour party is planning to run on, in the upcoming election.

Rural doctors “frustrated” by healthcare gap

Doctor Adam Coltzau works in St George, around 500 kilometres west of Brisbane. He told Queensland Country Life he’s just hoping for a change in attitude towards rural health and the end of the “one size fits all” approach.

“It has been too long accepted that people in rural areas don’t get the same level of care as those in urban areas,” he said.
“Rural people have worse outcomes regarding cancer and higher incidences of heart disease and diabetes and it’s to do with service provision.
“We need to fight for every dollar to produce a hybrid model that works in each individual town – the people out here are the life of our nation and they’ve been happy to sit by for too long.”

The AMA’s Rural Health Issues Survey 2016 will be open until April 29.