Media event date: 
20 March 2020
Date published: 
23 March 2020
Media type: 
Media release
General public

National rural health stakeholders have today met with Regional Health Minister, Mark Coulton, in a special roundtable focused on the regional response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In calling the special roundtable meeting, Minister Coulton said it was vitally important the risk faced by regional Australians was not overlooked.

“While most cases have been recorded in metropolitan centres to date, we must keep our focus on ensuring health services in regional, rural, and remote areas are up to the task ahead.

“Regional communities may benefit from their relative isolation but will also be concerned their access to health services could be tested by an increase in demand as the pandemic spreads.

“There are many aspects at play in managing the pandemic across the country and the need to ‘flatten the curve’ is every bit as important for smaller regional communities as it is for our major cities.” Mr Coulton said.

Meeting by teleconference as a social distancing measure, stakeholders raised priorities for the regional response. Minister Coulton said these priorities mirrored those for the whole country, but the regions.

“Just as many are across the country, our regional health professionals are preparing for the arrival of COVID-19 and they are clear about the challenges they expect to face in delivering necessary services.

“Provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), ensuring regional health workforces are responsive to demand, and getting messages into remote settings, dominate discussion.

“While we are going into a very fluid situation, I take comfort that the major topics raised mirror the government’s existing response measures, which will continue to be malleable as the situation develops.

“Even so, the specific advice from our regional bodies is invaluable and something Government takes seriously.

“Beyond our major cities, Australia is a particularly diverse country, with varying levels of service and resilience; I’m committed to ensuring those communities who face challenges have the support they need.

“Today’s stakeholder meeting proved an excellent conduit for both highlighting potential issues and for offering specific solutions that may well prove vital to a measured, successful regional response,” Minister Coulton said.

“We will continue holding these roundtables, on a regular basis, as the nation’s coronavirus situation develops so regional Australian’s needs are met.”

A communiqué from the special roundtable can be found on the Department of Health website.