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Health Care Initiatives Boost for Rural & Remote Australians.

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THE HON WARREN SNOWDON MP Minister for Indigenous Health, Rural and Regional Health and Regional Services Delivery

1 July 2009

Health Care Initiatives Boost for Rural & Remote Australians

People living in rural and remote areas of Australia will receive a significant boost to their health services with the introduction from today of a number of Rudd Government initiatives.

As part of the 2009-10 Federal Budget, the Government recognised the need to improve access to health services in rural and remote communities through a $206.3 million package of initiatives.

The Minister for Indigenous Health, Rural and Regional Health and Regional Services Delivery, Warren Snowdon, said the programs, introduced from today, would put additional health professionals and resources into rural and remote regions of the country.

Initiatives include:

National Rural Locum Program

An additional $5.9 million over the next four years has been included in the Budget in order to expand the National Rural Locum Program to include the Rural GP Locum Program.

Over 400 locum placements over four years will enable rural GPs to take a rest or undertake further education and training.

This will provide a mechanism to support and maintain the existing rural general practice workforce until new graduates are ready.

Expanded training program for GPs

The Government will provide an additional $1.2 million over the next four years to expand the Training for Rural and Remote Procedural General Practitioners Program. Urban GPs will be offered training to enhance their skills in emergency medicine in exchange for an agreement to work as a rural locum for four weeks.

The program aims to increase the number of doctors who are able to undertake locum work in rural communities, thereby enabling rural doctors to take time off for professional development or a much needed break. It is expected that up to 150 GPs will take advantage of this program.

Maintaining the multi-disciplinary rural training network

The Government is providing $6.8 million over four years to support the University Departments of Rural Health program. This is aimed at increasing the retention of health professionals in rural and remote communities.

The Dental Training Expanded Placements program aims to improve the availability of rural dental care and strengthen the dental workforce by providing rural training for metropolitan dental students.

The measure will meet the increasing costs for students taking part in the program and the Government is funding it with $4.1 million over four years. The extra funding for these two programs complements the existing funding of $81.3 million over four years these programs already receive.

Continuation of existing rural and remote mental health services

Under this measure, additional funding will be provided to the Mental Health Services in Rural and Remote Areas Program to maintain mental health services, ensuring that about 11,000 services to around 3000 people, in a 12 month period, are maintained in rural and remote communities.

The measure will provide funding to organisations such as Divisions of General Practice, The Royal Flying Doctors Services and Aboriginal Medical Services, to employ 47 allied and nursing mental health professionals.

The Government has committed $6.7 million in new funding over the next four years to this project, enabling services to be maintained in 14 rural and remote communities that would otherwise have limited or no access to such services, beyond the end of the year.

Extension of mental health support for drought-affected communities

The Government has provided $5.2 million for the Extension of the Mental Health Support for Drought Affected Communities initiative that will allow it to run until 30 June 2010.

This initiative will promote the concept that people should seek help when they feel they cannot cope as well as improving the capacity of communities to respond to the psychological impact of extreme weather conditions, such as drought.

For all media inquiries, please contact Kate Sieper on 0488 484 689.