The federal government roll out of around 180 new mobile base stations in regional cities has been welcomed by the National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA), but remote communities should be a priority in an effort to boost telecommunications infrastructure.
NRHA CEO Mark Diamond said this week’s announcement of new mobile base stations is good news for regional communities who require improved access to e-health services, but concerns remain for people living in the most isolated and remote parts of Australia.
“E-health, telehealth and tele-monitoring services are vital in our rural, regional and remote communities where services are thin on the ground. They help bridge the gap in delivering essential health services to isolated communities and they currently struggle due to inadequate infrastructure,” Mr Diamond said.
“The announcement from Senator McKenzie this week to introduce 180 new base stations as part of round four of the program will result in 1000 base stations being established as part of the government’s Mobile Blackspot program. Reliable 4G voice and data communication is an important method of establishing connectivity for remote and isolated communities – the very communities that have the highest health care needs.”
The best return on investment can be realised by focusing on making these services available to those most in need. “We need a more robust and priority commitment to improving telecommunications infrastructure in very remote areas as well as regional cities.”
Mr Diamond said rural and remote communities are missing out on vital health care services due to a lack of affordable and fit-for-purpose telecommunications and data connectivity infrastructure in the bush.
“These communities should be at the top of the list when it comes to delivering reliable and advanced infrastructure to enable the delivery of online and tele health services that are so desperately needed. The recent $33.5m announcement by the Minister for Health Greg Hunt for GP telehealth services to be made available to people in the most remote parts of Australia requires this sort of investment. You can’t have telehealth consultations occurring when the infrastructure doesn’t exist to make it work, Mr Diamond said.