A new Royal Flying Doctor Service research report titled Best for the Bush, Rural and Remote Health Base Line 2022 has identified significant poorer health outcomes for people living rurally who have limited access to primary health care.
Australians living regionally and rurally have significantly poorer health outcomes due to limited access to primary health care.
Presenting the latest data on the health of rural and remote Australians alongside RFDS aeromedical retrieval data and evidence on service gaps, the report identifies the issues that most urgently need attention from service providers, funders and policy makers, while also making recommendations for the RFDS to pursue together with governments, industry, rural and remote communities.
The report identified compared to those living in major cities, life expectancy and mortality rates of rural and remote residents show females are likely to die 19 years earlier while males 13.9 years earlier and both have a 1.5 increased mortality rate.
Federation Executive Director of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Frank Quinlan said all Australians should expect reasonable access to primary healthcare services no matter where they live and said those living in rural, remote and regional Australia, have much harder access to simple services such as a nurse-led clinic, a GP, a dentist or a specialist.
Concerningly, further analysis of RFDS emergency aeromedical retrievals shows that the most common reason for a retrieval is heart disease, which in many cases can be prevented through effective primary healthcare.
Additionally, analysis also shows that those from rural and remote areas are 2.5 times more likely than those in cities to be hospitalised for a reason that is potentially preventable.
New Tamworth resident and healthcare professional Indu Haidharan said although she is very open to telehealth consults, the lack of access to a GP in her preferred face to face method does make her frustrated, especially knowing in some cases her only option will be the Emergency Department.
“Before moving to Tamworth in January, I tried to find a GP based off my friends’ recommendations but despite the GP clinics acknowledging that I was a new resident, they unfortunately advised me that their books were full,” Ms Haridharan said.
“I have since found an online GP but my preference for receiving optimal health care is that face to face consult.
“I realised in my current situation, if I am unable to get that face to face consult for those instances a physical GP would be best, I will have no option but to present to ED. Even knowing as a health professional, how long it can take to be seen at ED, I still feel quite frustrated at the current GP situation,” she said.
With the release of the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce report, the Australian Government has recognised the critical importance of accessible primary health care and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare proposes that one measure of reasonable access is that, at a minimum, people should be able to access health services within a 60-minute drive time.
“As we look to reform Medicare across the country, we need to deploy creative models of integrated, multi-disciplinary team based primary care for people living outside the reach of mainstream services, who mainly rely on services outside the Medicare system, Said Mr Quinlan.
“The RFDS Best for the Bush report can bring government, service partners and communities together to deliver innovative, patient-centred solutions to solve these problems and ensure better health outcomes for our rural and remote communities.”