Small regional towns still struggling to find dentists, GPs
As seen in The Weekly Times, 6 December 2017
Access to dentists, psychologists and GPs in Australia’s small towns has barely improved in 30 years, a new analysis has found.
Number crunching from the Regional Australia Institute has found just 5 per cent of small towns have access to a dentist, down from 9 per cent in 1981.
The number of GPs and psychologists have increased slightly over the same period, but are still low at 18 and 6 per cent respectively.
Small towns are 10 to 12 times more likely to have a nurse in their community than a GP, with the percentage of nurses at 78 per cent.
The figures are highlighted in the RAI Pillars of Communities report, released today, which tracked trends in 1555 small towns — those with populations below 5000 — using Census data from 1981 to 2011.
RAI chief executive Jack Archer said while some progress had been made, government spending still “isn’t reaching the areas that need it most”.
“It should be no surprise that many small towns are overwhelmed by significant dental, mental health and educational achievement issues,” Mr Archer said.
“For many of the 1.8 million Australians who live in small towns, accessing a GP, dentist, or psychologist is nearly impossible.”
The report shows access to preschool teachers is also lacking, with a decrease from 25 per cent in 1981 to 16 per cent in 2011.
The number of primary school teachers is at 74 per cent and secondary teachers, 63 per cent.
Mr Archer said the lack of preschool teachers coincided with higher rates of early childhood development issues in rural and remote areas.
The number of police officers has also dropped, from 55 per cent to 46 per cent. The data showed 841 towns did not have a recognised police officer in 2011.
“People in regional Australia need to know that the services in their town will improve and that the spending will not be soaked up by places that don’t need it, or in funding for initiatives that are a long way from their community,” Mr Archer said.