Health Reform Challenges in Rural and Remote Australia

Paramedics Australasia is a Council Member of the National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA) which held a Policy Think Tank in Canberra on the 19 April in conjunction with the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA). Over 100 people concerned with healthcare services in rural, regional and remote areas came together from around Australia to discuss the implications of national health reform for rural health services.

Participants expressed a sense of uncertainty about the shape of the reforms and their ultimate impact on rural and remote areas that have highly diverse communities and needs. In particular, the role of Medicare Locals and their relationships with Local Hospital Networks remain unclear.

Delegates felt that the major test of the reforms will be how well these new entities can deliver the services expected across huge geographical distances. Performance measures need to be finely tuned to measure access to care and changes to health outcomes resulting from the work of Medicare Locals, Hospital Networks and Multi-Purpose Services (MPSs).

Paramedics Australasia has been forthright in advocating workforce innovation and reform and the importance of primary and EMS care as part of overall healthcare strategy. It has advocated the opportunities to enhance the level of healthcare available to rural and remote communities through inter-professional practice, extended paramedic practice modes, expanded use of community paramedics and national registration to facilitate the mobility of practitioners.

Recent developments from these efforts include the Health Workforce Australia (HWA) project on Extending the role of paramedics

Participants at the Canberra meeting called on Governments to improve communications to ensure that the structure and intentions of the reforms are clear to both the healthcare sector and rural communities. The full text of the Think Tank communiqué can be read HERE.