DAVID DOWSETT, HOST: Lifesaving rescue services in our region are set to get a big boost with a $1.1 million federal government grant. So how would the money be used? And what else is the government doing to help attract and retain more healthcare staff to the Wide Bay region and help reduce the country-city divide when it comes to quality of care? Emma McBride, Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health. Good morning.
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: David, it's so good to be with you.
DAVID DOWSETT, HOST: Nice to have you here. Well, first of all, tell us about this funding boosts for our region.
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: I'm very pleased to be able to let your listeners know that the Australian Government is investing $5.4 million to expand medical transport and specialist outreach clinics for people living in rural remote areas of Queensland and also parts of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. And locally that will include $4.3 million for Little Wings, and importantly, where you are, $1.1 million for LifeFlight.
DAVID DOWSETT, HOST: Very good indeed. 1.1 million. So, what would that actually provide?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, LifeFlight operates a fleet of helicopters and air ambulance jets to provide 24/7 lifesaving rescue services to people across Queensland. What this grant will do is support the Bundaberg LifeFlight rescue helicopter to employ a critical care doctor as part of its crew seven days a week during daylight hours in Bundaberg. It's so important to have that medical care and support, that specialist medical care and support, available seven days a week and I know this will give so many people particularly in Bundaberg that peace of mind and reassurance to know that that medical care and support is available to them.
DAVID DOWSETT, HOST: Very good, critical care doctor as part of the crew very important indeed. Does that mean that there isn't one currently in place?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, I know that this will be expanding the services of critical care doctors so that it is across seven days a week. We know how important it is for families and their critically ill children themselves that they get that immediate care and support on the ground and as they're then airlifted to the tertiary hospital to get that specialist service that they need in hospital.
DAVID DOWSETT, HOST: Okay, so when does the funding arrive?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: So the funding has been announced and is available. We're very pleased that this grant will now be available to support the Bundaberg LifeFlight rescue helicopter service. And what this will mean to the local communities to make sure that local people wherever they live have access to quality health care close to home. As a pharmacist myself that grew up in a regional community and having in this job being able to visit so many more rural and remote communities, I know just how important it is for people to know if their child is critically ill that they will have that care and support close to home to get them to the specialist care they need quickly and safely.
DAVID DOWSETT, HOST: I understand there's also a grants program for GPs, what's happening there?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: I'm very pleased that the government has announced as part of our election commitment to strengthen general practice across Australia $220 million in Strengthening Medicare in General Practice Grants. I've had the chance to visit GPs and surgeries right across Australia, and they often talk to me about the cost of running a practice or being able to upgrade digital equipment or being able to improve their infection prevention and control. And what these grants, up to $50,000, will mean is that general practices can do exactly that. They'll be able to upgrade that specialist equipment, be able to enhance their digital technology to make sure that local people can get the care and the support that they need. I know this is going to be very welcome, and the letters will be going out to general practices right across Australia from this week. So doctors will soon be able to apply for these grants, which will make a really big difference in investing in the equipment and the technology that they have available and in the care that they can provide to local communities.
DAVID DOWSETT, HOST: It's really great to have a grants program for GPs, but of course you need GPs in the first place. What's your Government doing to both attract and retain healthcare professionals in regional areas?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: This is an absolute top priority for our government, because we know that, and people experience this right around Australia, this problem of being able to get in to see their GP, waiting weeks for appointments, and this is a problem that has happened because of the underinvestment and the neglect of the former government but what we're doing is wiping the university debt of graduates who live and work in the most regional and remote parts of Australia, because we know that that is a big barrier to someone who's looking to work, or to move, or to set up a practice in a rural area. We're also looking at a single employer model, which makes it much easier for doctors who we train in our hospital systems to then transition from the hospital system to primary care in particular general practice. So they can bring across with them all of their entitlements from the hospital system into primary care and into running their own general practice. We're also investing in innovative models of care, and we've seen some real advances through these innovative models of care grants, where local practices are able to try and support new ways of practice including team based care where other health care practitioners are able to work within that practice to provide that specialist skill and expertise that people need.
DAVID DOWSETT, HOST: So looking forward, what would really be your goals when it comes to bridging the obvious gap that there is between city and country when it comes to health services?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: We know that someone who lives, say for a woman who lives in the most remote part of Australia, her life expectancy at the moment is 19 years shorter than her counterpart in a major city. For men, that gap is 11 years. What we want to do is make sure that we have the right sort of prevention and early intervention to keep people healthy and well in their communities, but also to boost the clinical care and support so that when people do need help, it's close to home. We don't want to see people having to delay or avoid care which makes their symptoms worse and where they end up in emergency departments. So we've announced urgent care centres right around the country, which will provide that gap, will fill that gap, between seeing your GP and needing to go to an emergency department. We're investing in the training of junior doctors. We're looking at the single employer model to encourage doctors to move from the hospital system to primary care and general practice. And we're looking today to further supporting general practices through these general practice grants,
DAVID DOWSETT, HOST: Changes that hopefully will make a big difference. Emma McBride, appreciate your time. Thanks very much.
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: Thank you so much, David.