Rural health advocate, medical practitioner and researcher Associate Professor Ruth Stewart has been appointed as Australia’s next National Rural Health Commissioner (NRHC).
The Federal Government recently extended and expanded the office of the NRHC which will also see a broader focus to allied health including pharmacy in rural and remote areas.
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) National President Associate Professor Chris Freeman welcomed the announcement, congratulating A/Prof Stewart on her appointment.
“Associate Professor Stewart brings a wealth of experience to this role and we look forward to working with her on behalf of pharmacists to improve rural health outcomes around Australia,” he said.
“As the most accessible healthcare provider, pharmacists are well-placed to perform a much greater role in Australia’s rural and remote communities.
“Highlighted in PSA’s Pharmacists in 2023, it is important to align incentives for pharmacists to support rural and remote communities as well as equip pharmacists with skills and knowledge to deliver closing-the-gap initiatives for indigenous Australian’s.”
“Importantly reducing unnecessary barriers to the Closing the Gap PBS Co-payment Measure has been identified within the 7th Community Pharmacy Agreement.
“PSA also welcomes the intent to expand the Rural Pharmacy Maintenance Allowance within the 7thCommunity Pharmacy Agreement to the modified Monash Model classification which will increase the eligibility for an additional 800 pharmacies.”
Following the NRC Discussion Paper for Consultation: Rural Allied Health Quality Access and Distribution late last year, PSA called for a number of actions to address the unique needs of the rural pharmacy workforce.”
A/Prof Freeman said it is important to prioritise the support that is available to rural pharmacists who play such an important role in the healthcare system.
“Unless we prioritise the support that is available to our rural practitioners, we will potentially lose our rural pharmacists and a crucial level of service delivery,” he said.
“As part of the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement $24.6 million has been allocated to rural support programs which is a good step forward.”
“PSA look forward to working with Government on these programs as well as progressing regional and rural health reforms with the NRHC and other healthcare bodies.”