Graphic: Signposts near Louth, NSW

Outback still needs greater access to health care

Date published

07 Apr 2021

This year the international theme for World Health Day, which falls on 7 April, is ‘building a fairer, healthier world’.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (South Eastern Section) (RFDSSE) emphasised that even in wealthier countries like Australia, not everyone yet has equal access to health care.

Senior Medical Officer Mary Beth Macisaac explained that people living in the outback are more at risk of ill health.

“The environment can be harsh, access to fresh fruit and vegetables can be difficult, and the geography is immense - which limits access to services,” she said.

“Due to the greater need, equitable access actually means greater access to services is required compared to patients living in urban areas,” added the Broken Hill-based doctor.

"The geography is immense - which limits access to services..."

According to the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare, 58% of people in remote and very remote areas of Australia reported that not having a specialist nearby was a barrier to seeing one. That compares to just 6% in the cities.

“Funding for the provision of healthcare in the bush should also include the cost of transport,” added the RFDSSE General Manager for Health Services, Jenny Beach.

“That means both taking health services to people and taking people from their communities to access services elsewhere. Sometimes it is thousands of kilometres.”

Supported by private donations as well as by the Federal and State governments, the RFDSSE remains committed to the vision of providing the finest care to the furthest corner of New South Wales and surrounds.

“We are seeking to reduce the equity gap for rural and remote residents of Australia, so that no matter where you live, you can have a fair go in terms of health,” concluded Dr Macisaac.

A State Government inquiry into ‘Health outcomes and access to health and hospital services in rural, regional and remote New South Wales’ is set to wrap up around July 2021.