Opening Address to the Australian Physiotherapy Association Conference

Minister for Health, the Hon Peter Dutton's, MP, Opening Address to the Australian Physiotherapy Association Conference at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Page last updated: 17 October 2013

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17 October 2013

Check Against Delivery

Thank you for the opportunity to officially open the 2013 Australian Physiotherapy Association Conference.

Over the next four days I am sure you will greatly benefit from hearing insights of the brightest minds working in physiotherapy in this country and internationally. Events like the APA Conference bring together people in the pursuit of professional excellence and development.

Over the past five years as Opposition spokesperson on Health I have often looked to the expertise of this Association for frank advice on building a better primary health care system which encompasses a broad range of providers across the public, private and non-government sectors.

High quality primary care relies on the skills and knowledge of allied health professionals as key members of the multidisciplinary team.

The government recognises that allied health services such as you provide are essential activities that complement and support the role of general practitioners.

As you would all appreciate, the role of allied health professions is increasing. Physiotherapists make up nearly 20 per cent of registered allied health practitioners in Australia. A sizeable workforce within allied health providing an increasingly important role in cooperation with general practitioners, nurses and others in managing complex conditions.

The government strongly supports improved coordination of care between doctors, practice nurses and allied health professionals, as well as in the interface with the acute sector.

This is recognised through the Coalition’s strong commitment to Medicare in the provision of services treating chronic disease. The previous Coalition government introduced the expanded Medicare rebates for allied health professionals. In 2012-13 financial year alone, more than 1.2 million services were provided to patients through these programs.

Allied health professionals play a vital role in encouraging collaboration and integration and you are well placed to do this – working across many different settings and with many different providers.

In recognition of the need to bolster our allied health professional workforce, and as we highlighted during the election campaign, the government will further invest in allied health scholarships, targeted to areas of clinical need and to help address workforce shortages in rural and remote areas.

Assistance will be provided to students and health professionals for undergraduate study, postgraduate study, continuing professional development and workforce re-entry programmes. This will provide much needed assistance to students and health professionals from rural and remote areas to access education and training.

The government's plan will provide financial assistance to students from rural and remote areas who have attained a position to study.

Importantly, it will mitigate the additional costs that many rural and remote health professionals face in ensuring they are abreast of the up-to-date clinical practice through continuing professional development.

During the election campaign as part of our commitment to Rebuild Primary Health Care we have committed to fund 500 additional nursing and allied health scholarships.

The scholarships are intended to be targeted to areas of clinical need and areas of workforce shortage in rural and remote areas.

The benefits of an increase in availability of scholarships for allied health and nursing would likely include:

  • an increase in the health workforce by facilitating the entry of job seekers and youths interested in pursuing a career in the nursing and allied health professions;
  • facilitating the continued professional development of nursing and allied health professionals; and
  • encouraging the pursuit of a health career in both geographic areas and areas of clinical need where there are shortages.
Another area of deep concern to the government is the serious consequences for
the quality of life for those affected by chronic diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, cardio, respiratory or musculoskeletal conditions, areas which physiotherapists can play an important role.

As part of our commitment to addressing diabetes, a new National Diabetes Strategy will bring together Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments and peak organisations. It will prioritise our response through prevention strategies, early detection, early interventions, management and treatment.

One of the passions that I had as Shadow Health Minister in Opposition, and indeed as Tony Abbott had as Health Minister in the Howard Government, was to make sure that we can invest in medical research. This is one of my top priorities.

This is important not only for breakthrough cures, but to support the development of improved models of care. Research and evidence will guide our response to improve interventions at a primary level.

Keeping people out of acute care settings is in the interests of patients, but also the economic sustainability of our health system. It is no secret that government health budgets are under strain. State and territories in particular will struggle to meet health costs given current growth rates.

We are serious about bolstering our primary care response. As the responsible Minister, I look forward to working with your profession to help ensure our health provides the right interventions at the right time for patients. This will improve quality of care, outcomes and the efficiency of the system.


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