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Federal Government makes great strides on rural health.

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18 February 2002 A20/2002


The Federal Government's commitment to regional health had been confirmed with a big increase in the proportion of country students taking up medicine, the Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the National Party and Minister for Transport and Regional Services, John Anderson, told Parliament today.

A simple comparison between the record of Labor and the Liberal-National Government shows how the intake of country students fell to unsustainable levels under the Hawke and Keating governments.

"If you accept the conventional wisdom that overwhelmingly country kids are the ones who will go back to the country after they have trained in a professional area, you need to get your intake of country kids through our medical schools up to at least 25 percent, preferably 30 percent," Mr Anderson said.

"In some of our medical institutions when Labor were there, the country intake had slipped to two or three percent.

"Under the scholarships and other arrangements that we have put in place, it is now running at around 25 percent. That is a proud record."

In 2000-01, there was a 4.3 percent increase in the number of rural and remote doctors across Australia (compared to a 0.8 percent decrease in doctors in metropolitan areas). Mr Anderson also emphasised the Government's commitment to providing easy access to medical services to all Australians.

The Government will continue to issue Medicare provider numbers to GPs in country areas, including to appropriately trained foreign doctors in areas of need, despite inaccurate claims to the contrary by members of the Federal opposition.

As the number of country doctors increase, Medicare funds spent per patient outside the cities will increase.

Mr Anderson said about $700 million of resources had been committed to improving health outcomes for Australians living in rural, regional and remote areas.

"While it will be some years before the increased numbers of rural kids training in medicine will start to ease the supply, we have set the foundation for recovery in place."

The National Party has played a critical role in getting some short term outcomes and more importantly,

lasting solutions to the crisis that will take effect in coming years.

"Our ability, as the only true regional political party, to represent country people, has been proven through the policies we have implemented.

"There is only one way to get things done, and that is making the tough decisions and committing the resources while in Government.

"Federal Labor failed during its 13 years - and Labor state governments continue to fail to this day - and independents can do nothing but carp and mislead."

Media Contact: Duncan Bremner 02 62777680