Local government leaders will gather for a summit in Temora this week (Wednesday 8 May) to grapple with the challenges of delivering effective general practice and primary health care in rural and regional areas.
Organised by Local Government NSW (LGNSW), the Temora Summit will bring councils together to discuss initiatives and experiences with their regional neighbours, both adjoining and further afield.
“Temora is the perfect location to discuss rural health issues following its Great Quack Quest campaign earlier this year to attract general practitioners to the region,” LGNSW President Cr Scott said.
“Councils across regional and rural NSW share similar concerns about the effective provision of health care services.
“As the only sphere of government embedded in rural and small communities, councils often take on extra responsibility where the needs of their communities are unmet by state and federal governments.
“This is particularly true of health services, where councils often subsidise accommodation and premises for medical professionals.
“Rural councils will never be able to fully fund basic standards of infrastructure and services from their own revenue – let alone pick up the slack for healthcare which is supposed to be the responsibility of state and federal governments.
“The urgent need for state and federal government to work with councils and contribute to financial packages to engage doctors in rural towns was highlighted during our 2018 annual conference.
“As well as increased funding, we are calling upon the federal Minister for Health to introduce measures to prevent general practices making a profit from transferring patient records to incoming practitioners, as well as legal agreements to secure services and patients’ records.
“These issues are key concerns for regional and rural communities, which tend to have a higher turnover of general practitioners.
“We welcome the federal government’s budget announcement to invest $62.2m over the next five years to fast track the National Rural Generalist Pathway Program and provide a sustainable future workforce of general practitioners for rural areas.
Cr Scott said much more needs to be done to address access to healthcare including:
• increasing the number of GPs and specialists
• improving access to allied health services particularly for mental health, and
• a National Disability Insurance Scheme that offers better support for the most vulnerable members of our communities in rural and regional areas.
“Supporting vulnerable communities is a top priority for LGNSW,” she said.
“We are calling for untied, recurrent grants for councils serving the most socio-economically disadvantaged areas in NSW, so they can meet community needs.
“With the federal election approaching, the NSW and Australian Local Government Associations are calling for increased financial assistance grants through its ‘A Fairer Share’ campaign.
“Local government’s share of commonwealth tax revenue has fallen from to one per cent in 1996 to just 0.55 per cent today.
“Councils raise only 3.6 per cent of total tax revenue but are responsible for 33 per cent of public infrastructure – including 75 per cent of Australia’s roads.
“It’s clear we need a fairer deal for our communities.”
The theme for the Temora Summit is ‘Challenges and strategies for health care delivery in rural and regional areas’.
The program will include a panel discussion and presentations from Dr Rachel Christmas, NSW Management Committee, Rural Doctors Association of Australia, and Cr Rick Firman OAM, Mayor of Temora Shire Council.