Online version of the 2012-13 Department of Health and Ageing Annual Report

Outcome 6: Rural Health

Access to health services for people living in rural, regional and remote Australia, including through health infrastructure and outreach services

Page last updated: 29 October 2013

Major Achievements

  • Provided people in rural Australia with better access to medical specialists, GPs and allied and other health providers under the Rural Health Outreach Fund.
  • Provided essential health services to rural, remote and very remote communities, including health clinics and emergency aero-medical evacuations, through further support for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
  • Provided information to people in regional and remote Australia to let them know what local health programs and services are available to them.
  • Delivered better information to the community by expanding the Rural and Regional Health Australia website. The website now includes an improved map locator, GP statistics, locations of Medicare Locals and details about the Visiting Optometrists Scheme.

Challenges

  • Continue to support recruitment of health professionals to deliver vital outreach services in rural, regional and remote locations under the Rural Health Outreach Fund.

Performance

This is a doughnut chart and a table that summarises the results for all deliverables and key performance indicators in outcome 6 during 2012-13. The results show that 87.5% were met compared with 84.6% in 2011-12, 12.5% were substantially met compared with 15.4% in 2011-12.

87.5% MET

12.5% SUBSTANTIALLY MET

0% NOT MET

Period Met Substantially met Not met
2012-13 87.5% 12.5% 0.0%
2011-12 84.6% 15.4% 0.0%

Program contributing to Outcome 6

Trends

During 2012-13, the Royal Flying Doctor Service provided more than 43,142 patient contacts throughout Australia, up from 41,657 in 2011-12. With Government support, the Royal Flying Doctor Service continues to provide essential health services to Australia’s rural, remote and very remote communities.

Figure 6.1: Patient Consultations – Royal Flying Doctor Service

The figure is a vertical column chart. Each column denotes the number of patient consultations (denoted on y-axis), the Royal Flying Doctor Service provided for each of the years 2007-08 through to 2012-13 (denoted on x-axis). The chart indicates a rise in the number of patient consultations during 2012-13.
Text Alternative: Figure 6.1: Patient Consulations - Royal Flying Doctor Service

Outcome Strategy

Outcome 6 aims to improve access to health services for people living in rural, regional and remote Australia68 by supporting a range of targeted rural health programs and activities. In 2012-13, the Department worked to achieve this Outcome by managing initiatives under the program outlined below.

Program 6.1: Rural Health Services

Program 6.1 aims to improve access to medical specialists, GPs and allied and other health providers in rural and remote areas of Australia.

Provide rural health outreach services

Rural Health Outreach Fund

Established on 1 July 2011, the Rural Health Outreach Fund provides a flexible funding pool to help improve access to medical specialists, GPs and allied and other health providers in rural and remote areas. Since then, the Department has been working with fund holders, health professionals and representative organisations to maximise the delivery of outreach health services.

The fund specifically addresses financial disincentives incurred by health professionals providing outreach services relating to maternity and paediatric health, eye health, mental health and chronic disease management. In addition, the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine was approved to receive funding to expand telehealth services.

Improve access to health and information services in regional, rural and remote areas

Australians in rural and regional areas face unique difficulties accessing health services. The Department has continued to support programs that improve access to health services in these communities, such as the National Rural and Remote Health Infrastructure Program, Royal Flying Doctor Service, and Rural Women’s GP Services. The Rural and Regional Health Australia information service, established in 2011 as part of Rural and Regional Health Australia, provides Australians with a central point where they can access information on local health and aged care services.

Rural and Remote Health Infrastructure

The National Rural and Remote Health Infrastructure Program (NRRHIP) continues to fund projects in rural and remote communities across Australia to establish and refurbish health facilities that provide a range of primary care services. These include health services such as podiatry, physiotherapy, speech pathology and dental health services. The NRRHIP also improves resources and establishes facilities to support private GPs to train medical students and registrars in rural and remote communities.

In 2012-13, the NRRHIP was revised to prioritise future grant rounds for projects, providing greater access for people living in remote and Indigenous communities. In 2013-14, a seventh funding round is due to be conducted to support projects providing better health outcomes for people living in remote and Indigenous communities with populations under 20,000 people.

Royal Flying Doctor Service

In 2012-13, the Department continued to provide funding for the Royal Flying Doctor Service to provide health care clinics, primary aero-medical evacuations, medical chests (medical and pharmaceutical supplies) and remote consultations. The delivery of the Rural Women’s GP Service was extended for two years to 2014-15 and will continue to give women in rural and remote Australia access to female GPs.

Rural and Regional Health Australia

In 2012-13, Rural and Regional Health Australia (RRHA) continued to give rural and remote communities access to information about health and aged care programs and services available outside metropolitan areas. Its Information Service comprises a free call 1800 information line, email facility and website.70

The RRHA website includes information on the Rural Health Workforce Strategy, GP statistics, Medicare Locals locations, the Visiting Optometrists Scheme, and an improved map locator tool. These features inform consumers, medical and health care professionals and students about access to services in rural, regional and remote areas. The site also links to the National Health Services Directory, which provides information on the location of health services, including GPs, pharmacies and hospitals.

In 2012-13, the Information Service received 1,256 enquiries (1,090 calls to the information line and 166 emails) from the public and health professionals, and the RRHA website has been accessed 71,763 times.

National Strategic Framework for Rural and Remote Health

Geographic spread, low population density, limited infrastructure and the significantly higher cost of health service delivery present unique challenges for providing health care in rural and remote Australia.

The National Strategic Framework for Rural and Remote Health (the Framework), developed by the Rural Health Standing Committee (RHSC), provides the foundation for a nationally coordinated approach to addressing these challenges. The Department has continued to work with jurisdictions through the RHSC to improve access to quality and safe health care services for people living in rural and remote Australia. During 2012-13, the Department has also supported the RHSC to start developing a set of indicators to monitor progress against the Framework.

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Outcome 6 – Financial Resource Summary

Program (A) Budget Estimate 2012-13
$’000
(B) Actual 2012-13
$’000
Variation (Column B minus Column A)
$’000
Program 6.1: Rural Health Services
Administered Expenses
Ordinary Annual Services (Annual Appropriation Bill 1) 87,480 86,946 ( 534)
Departmental Expenses
Departmental Appropriation 1 12,295 11,785 ( 510)
Expenses not requiring appropriation in the current year 2 385 601 216
Total for Program 6.1 100,160 99,332 ( 828)
Outcome 6 Totals by appropriation type
Administered Expenses
Ordinary Annual Services (Annual Appropriation Bill 1) 87,480 86,946 ( 534)
Departmental Expenses
Departmental Appropriation 1 12,295 11,785 ( 510)
Expenses not requiring appropriation in the current year 2 385 601 216
Total expenses for Outcome 6 100,160 99,332 ( 828)
Average Staffing Level (Number) 83 82 ( 1)
  1. Departmental appropriation combines 'Ordinary annual services (Appropriation Bill 1)' and 'Revenue from independent sources (s31)'.
  2. 'Expenses not requiring appropriation in the budget year' is made up of depreciation expense, amortisation, make good expense and audit fees. This estimate also includes approved operating losses - please refer to the departmental financial statements for further information.

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