Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention - press conference - 27 March 2024

Read the transcript of Assistant Minister McBride's press conference on the 2024 Best of Bush report; rural and regional healthcare.

The Hon Emma McBride MP
Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
Assistant Minister Rural and Regional Health

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FRANK QUINLAN, ROYAL FLYING DOCTOR SERVICE: Thank you. My name is Frank Quinlan and I’m the Federation Executive Director of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. We’re here today to launch officially the 2024 Best for the Bush report, and to hand that report to our Government. As I prepped for this morning's meeting, I recognise that I was joined here this morning by one of my colleagues, Judith Barker, who's the CEO of RFDS Western Ops. One of her bases is a place called Broome, which is, according to TomTom, 5000 kilometres from the car park here at Parliament House in Canberra. Between here and Broome, there are tens of thousands of Australians who don't have adequate or appropriate access to primary health care. These Australians die earlier than their city counterparts, and they're up to three times more likely to be taken to hospital for illnesses that are preventable. This report, The Best of the Bush Report, tells their stories. And we're very proud to be working together with the Australian Government on trying to overcome some of these challenges. Most importantly, we think we need to move our focus from emergency medical retrieval and towards primary health care, so that we can prevent the illness and prevent the disruption that occurs when people who live, work and travel in remote Australia become ill. So I'm very grateful for the Minister's support, for the Albanese’s Government support, for Minister Butler's support, but importantly for Minister Emma McBride's support, who's written forward to this report and who we're working very closely with to address and overcome these problems. So I guess officially, Minister, I'd like to hand you a copy of our 2024 report, and thank you for the work that we're doing together to overcome some of the challenges that we face. Thanks. 

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: I'd like to begin by thanking Frank Quinlan, the Executive Director of the Federation of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. For the work that the Royal Flying Doctor Service do for those 7 million Australians that live outside of our capital cities. As Frank has mentioned, we know the stark discrepancy of health outcomes for those living in rural and remote Australia. That they are likely- their life expectancy is 14.3 years shorter than a city counterpart. And they’re almost three times as likely to die from an avoidable or preventable condition, whether that’s diabetes or heart disease. I’m very proud as part of the Albanese Labor Government to be working in strong partnership with the Royal Flying Doctor Service and other stakeholders who are committed to close this gap in life expectancy, and to improve the quality of life of Australians living outside of our major cities. The Australian Government has invested more than $1 billion over 10 years in the Royal Flying Doctor Service, including in their aeromedical retrieval services. And in the 2023-24 budget, we committed close to $30 million for primary health care, including dental care, and in my other area of responsibility, mental health support. We know the difference that we're making already, but we're determined to continue to work together to improve the quality of life for Australians living outside of our major cities, to close the gap in life expectancy, and to make sure that all Australians, wherever they live, have access to quality care closer to home and more affordably.

So I want to thank the Royal Flying Doctor Service for their Best of the Bush report - the second of their Best for the Bush report - again underscoring the health discrepancies and the difference in life expectancy for those 7 million Australians living outside of our capital cities, but also those green shoots, those areas of progress. And as a government, we're pleased to support an increase in the number of Commonwealth supported places for medical students at our rural clinical schools. We're pleased to see an increase in John Flynn Scholarships so that medical students in training can have quality supervision and placement in rural and remote Australia. We're proud to see an increase in the number of single employer model sites across the country, where doctors in training in city hospitals- in hospitals can then move into primary care. And we're very pleased to be working very strongly, with clinicians, with researchers and organisations like the Royal Flying Doctor Service to improve the quality of life and life expectancy for Australians wherever they live. So thank you and congratulations, Frank.

QUINLAN: Thank you. Thanks for coming. Any questions? Then I think we're done. Thank you everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Thank you so much, thank you Minister.

QUINLAN: And thank you, please, to my team, who gathered and got us all together, to the authors of the report, and to those who are not here as well. So thank you very much.

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