30 year study shows further services needed in country Australia
A study on access to health and educational professionals in remote and rural Australia has again shown the disparity in services for these communities.
Yesterday, the Regional Australia Institute released the report Pillars of communities: Service delivery professionals in small Australian towns 1981-2011, which measured the number of health and education professionals, including doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists, paramedics and social welfare professionals, in Australian towns of up to 5,000 people across a 30 year period.
The report shows that growth has been limited to larger inner regional areas, while many smaller more remote areas have seen declines in the availability of health professionals.
Martin Laverty, Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Flying Doctor Service says this latest evidence of the disparity in access to services in remote Australia is concerning.
“The report from the Regional Australia Institute shows that few small towns have health specialists, such as psychologists and dentists, available in their communities. The gap in access to these important services between the smallest towns and the rest of Australia is continuing to grow”.
The report shows a significant decline in the number of nurses in remote and very remote areas since 1981, with only 58% of small towns having a nurse in 2011 as compared to 76% in 1981. Social welfare professionals in these areas has halved across the period, from 24% to 11%, while the number of psychologists has also fallen dramatically.
Consistent with the Flying Doctor’s own research, the report shows the difficulty for country Australians to access dental services, with only 5% of small towns having access to a dentist, with this figure declining to 1% in remote and very remote areas. This finding supports the need for the the Flying Doctors’ national Dental Outreach Program, which commenced in April 2017 to provide much-needed mobile dental services to remote and very remote communities on a regular basis.
‘This report shows an ongoing disparity in access to crucial health services for people in remote Australia, where health outcomes are worst’ says Mr Laverty.
‘Working with these communities, governments and policy makers need to continue to think innovatively to provide comprehensive health services in a sustainable way, ensuring that these diverse and vibrant small towns can flourish’.
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