seeing the doctor

Equitable health access for all Australians

Date published

17 Dec 2020

As part of a submission to the Federal Government's Inquiry into Regional Australia, the RFDS has released a new research paper entitled 'Equitable Patient Access to Primary Healthcare in Australia'.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare proposes that all Australians should have reasonable access to services --  which it defines to be access within a 60-minute drive time.

Using this measure, a new RFDS research paper entitled 'Equitable Patient Access to Primary Healthcare in Australia' has  investigated access to primary healthcare in Australia, and has identified population concentrations that do not have access to primary healthcare within a 60-minute drive time.

  • 42,805 people, including 9.132 (21.3%) Indigenous Australians have NO access to any primary health care services within a 60-minute drive time.  
  • 65,050 people have no access to a GP within a 60 minute drive; 
  • 440,387 people have no access to a nurse-led clinics; 
  • 142, 269 people have no access to dental; and 
  • 106,848 people have no access to mental health services.

There are 2.9 infant deaths per 1000 live births in major cities — but 5.1 infant deaths per 1000 live births in regional, remote and very remote, and 6.3 infant deaths per 1000 live births in remote and very remote areas.

The average age at death in cities is 82.5 — but it is 65.3 years in very remote areas of Australia.

RFDS Professor Fergus Gardiner said “This research has been conducted using the most advanced of mapping and data tools. This is a finite problem – not a problem of unknown scope and dimensions. We now know where people are and we now just need to match health service with need."

fact sheet on this research paper

RFDS Federation Executive Director Frank Quinlan said, “Working alongside government, industry and communities, the RFDS is putting together a long term plan to address rural and remote access to health services."

"Based on COVID-19 learnings it is clear that not-for-profits and governments can work together in an agile, constructive and effective manner to address need in the bush."

"We want to show the same agility and productive relationships when it comes to health access for country Australians. We can achieve a lot with telemedicine – but not everything." 

"Tackling problems in the bush requires ‘ local’ resources, workforce, infrastructure and capacity", Frank Quinlan continued.

“Getting a health practitioner on every street corner is never going to happen when it comes to country Australia – but the RFDS can bring government, industry and people together for innovative solutions to solve these problems.”