ORTENZIA BORRE, HOST: The 2023 Bilateral Regional Health Forum between the Federal and New South Wales Government will be held today. The forum aimed at improving access to health care in regional and remote New South Wales will focus on primary and aged care as well as how best to train and support the workforce. And joining me now live is Federal Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health, Emma McBride. Emma, good morning. What conclusions do we expect you to get out of this gathering?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: We know in Australia today that the further you live outside of a major city the worst your health outcomes are likely to be. That's unacceptable. We know that for a woman living in the most remote parts of Australia that her life expectancy is 19 years shorter than her city counterpart. And this isn't something that just happened this is a result of years of neglect and cuts. With the incoming Labor Government in New South Wales working with the Commonwealth we're determined to work in strong collaboration and cooperation to bridge that gap between city and country in health outcomes. Today, there'll be a strong focus, as you've mentioned, on workforce because we know that one of the biggest barriers to affordable care is the right workforce in the right place. And this is something that as a Commonwealth we've invested significantly in and we're working in strong collaboration with the State Government and Minister Ryan Park to make sure that we do have the right workforce, in the right place, at the right time, for rural and regional people.
BORRE: Now, what are some of the specific pathways that you're going to be taking to improve regional health?
MCBRIDE: In terms of workforce, we know that someone who comes from a regional area is much more likely to work in a regional area. So the Government has announced an extra 100 Commonwealth Supported Places for rural medical students. They'll be permanent ongoing places from 2024. We've also boosted the number of John Flynn Prevocational Scholarships. These are for placements for prevocational doctors, doctors in training, so that they can have quality placements in regional and rural communities, develop strong bonds with those communities, and become familiar with practicing in a rural and regional environment. We're also introducing more of the Single Employer Models and these models were started in the Murrumbidgee are now being expanded to 22 locations across Australia with up to 80 GP trainees and what this will mean is we're really investing in the pipeline. We're also wiping the university debt of doctors and nurse practitioners who are open to working in the most rural and remote parts of Australia. So boosting the numbers of undergraduate medical students at regional universities, wiping the university debt of doctors willing to work and open to work in those communities, providing the right and placements, and through the Single Employer Model, giving them the financial scaffolding to transition seamlessly from their hospital based training to working in general practice in our regional and remote communities.
BORRE: Now speaking of doctors, having doctors available is one thing but with the cost of living at its highest many people are actually putting off seeing the GPs because their practitioners aren't bulk billing anymore, and people just can't afford to go and see a doctor. What's the Government going to do about this? This a really big issue.
MCBRIDE: This is something that I've heard in communities right around Australia, including my own on the Central Coast of New South Wales that people are delaying or avoiding seeing a GP and ending up in the emergency departments already clogged public hospital system. So the Government in the Budget announced $6.1 billion, the biggest single investment in Medicare in its history, and what that will mean is indexing the Medicare rebate and tripling the bulk billing incentive, and that comes into effect on the first of November. And I've heard from many medical practices and doctors who said that now they'll be able to resume bulk billing and this will make a big difference for 11 million Australians, particularly older people and children under 16 to make sure that they can get that primary care so they don't end up getting worse and ending up in our emergency departments. We're also introducing more than 50 Medicare Urgent Care Clinics right around Australia and with a particular focus on regional and rural Australia, where people can walk in, without an appointment and be bulk billed which will make such a big difference in the access and affordability of care particularly for people living in more rural and remote parts of Australia.
BORRE: Emma thank you. Now lastly, before we let you go, a few days ago, the Disability Royal Commission released over 200 recommendations, now that's a loss in their findings. What's your response to this?
MCBRIDE: What I first want to do is really commend everybody who participated in this Royal Commission, for the people living with disability for bravely sharing their stories, to the Commissioners and their staff for the work that they did. What the Government has done is an immediate response because of how seriously we take this, we set up a Commonwealth Taskforce, because this will take an across government response and I want to recognise and Minister Bill Shorten and Minister Amanda Rishworth, such dedicated Ministers, who are working very determinedly each day to improve the lives of people living with disability. We know that there's more than 220 recommendations and that the reports go over 12 volumes and more than 5000 pages. So, this is something that the Commonwealth will work through steadily and appropriately to make sure that what we do helps to create a more inclusive society for everybody.
BORRE: Emma McBride, thank you so much for your time this morning. I know you've got a busy day ahead.
MCBRIDE: Good to be with you. Thank you.