Graphic: RFDS Tasmania releases primary health care study

RFDS releases primary health care study

Date published

13 Apr 2015

The State Government's vision for Tasmania is to 'have the healthiest population in Australia by 2025' is supported by the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). The challenge in achieving this is clearly outlined in the report released by the RFDS today, for remote and rural Tasmania.

The report and associated study, prepared by KP Health (KPH), brings together a wide range of evidence-based information about the health status of the Tasmanian population and describes potential opportunities for the RFDS to contribute in primary health care.

The Provision of Primary Health Care Services Strategic Study, highlights that rural Tasmanians experience poorer health outcomes and poorer access to general practice services than non-rural Tasmanians.

The key findings of the report are:
> Tasmania has a regionally dispersed population with one third of Tasmanians living outside Hobart and Launceston;
> Tasmania has an ageing population with a higher median age than other States or Territories;
> Close to one third of Tasmania's land mass is classified as remote with 2.1% of the population living in these areas;
> Rural Tasmanians have poorer access to local general practice services;
> Avoidable hospitalisations increase with remoteness;
> Tasmania has the second highest rate of deaths from potentially avoidable causes; and
> Tasmania has the highest rates of premature deaths, mainly in rural areas.

Of particular concern, the report notes that Tasmania has some of the worst dental health in Australia with the highest rate of complete tooth loss, the greatest number of dentures, the highest average number of missing teeth and the greatest number of people who haven't seen a dentist in the last five years. RFDS would add our voice to the recent concern of the Australian Dental Association for the ongoing funding by the Commonwealth in the 2015/16 budget and beyond to ensure these services are not reduced.

RFDS Tasmania Chief Executive, John Kirwan said that the evidence is clear that there are considerable differences in health outcomes for people living in remote areas of Tasmania compared to those residing in areas where services are present and able to be accessed. The task is to now implement already proven strategies and to develop innovative approaches where there are challenges such as distance, access and workforce challenges.

"The challenge of providing integrated primary health care services to remote areas is currently being addressed by the RFDS. We have always had a role in primary health care in other States and Territories and are now pursuing this interest to expand our own services in partnership with other providers such as the new Primary Care Network and General Practitioners, Ambulance Tasmania and all levels of Government," John said.

"Our focus is firmly on the KPH report and the need for a stronger focus on remote primary health care. The report findings provide an opportunity to provide a focus and voice to ensure that there is a sharper focus on improving remote and rural health outcomes by addressing the gaps in service provision."

The first step is that RFDS is and will be working with a range of stakeholders to develop and implement a range of evidence-based services.

We are also calling on the State Government to ensure remote and rural health outcomes are a focus in the final White Paper in line with our submission to the Green Paper that has been released along with a significant number of other written submissions.

The report complements the independent health economics report by Centre for International Economics released by the RFDS Federation in March 2015 and demonstrates that deaths in very remote areas are 35% higher than in cities. The report suggests that those living is rural and remote areas have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and behavioural and environmental health risks along with low levels of self-assessed health.

The report, Provision of Primary Health Care Services Strategic Study is available for download here.

The Centre for International Economics Report is available for download here.