Royal Flying Doctor Service a big winner in rural health budget initiatives

Rural and regional health is set to benefit from initiatives in the 2015-16 budget.

Page last updated: 25 May 2015

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23 May 2015

Rural and regional health is set to benefit from initiatives in the 2015-16 budget, Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash said today.

A key winner is the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), which has received a $20 million boost over the next two years.

"Just this week, Queensland Senator Barry O'Sullivan and I visited the RFDS in Cairns to thank them for the wonderful work they do and the lives they save," Minister Nash said.

"There are many Australians who are alive today because of the RFDS. The RFDS is part of the Australian identity.

"Despite these tight financial times, we found extra funding for the RFDS in a tight budget and the organisation is worth every cent."

The budget also set aside $1 million for rural and regional areas through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).

The Australian Government makes rebates available to Australians for private medical treatments through the MBS. Additional support is provided to services in regional, rural and remote areas including all of Tasmania.

Under the 2015-16 Budget, new Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) rebates will be made available for optometrists to assist patients during telehealth consultations with ophthalmologists. The measure allocates $1 million through the MBS for patients in regional areas, in residential aged care facilities and to Aboriginal Medical Services for specialist optometrist support services.

“We know regional and rural areas face extra barriers to accessing health services and our aim is to break down those barriers," Minister Nash said.

“These Budget initiatives are designed to better meet the needs of local communities as well as improve coverage of the health workforce.”

There has also been $600 million worth of new cancer measures allocated including the listing new life-saving drug treatments for melanoma and breast cancer on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Women in rural and remote locations will also benefit from a new breast cancer drug for targeted intraoperative radiotherapy for early-stage invasive breast cancer. The one-off treatment reduces the need to travel after surgery for post-operative radiotherapy.

Following an extensive independent review, the General Practice Rural Incentives Programme (GPRIP) will be redesigned to increase the number of doctors practising in areas experiencing the most difficulty attracting a GP workforce.

Financial incentives will target doctors working in regional and rural towns and remote areas and there will also be a consolidation of workforce scholarships to target scholarships to areas of need and encourage health students to take up rural careers.

Minister Nash said access to these critical health services are important for everyone living in rural and regional areas.

“Improved access to quality services will ensure people get to stay close to home or spend less time away from their family and loved ones if they get sick,” she said.

“That kind of flow on benefit from these budget initiatives will make a difference to people living in regional and rural communities.”

Media contact: Les White 0409 805 122

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