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Official Opening (4th National Rural Health Conference)


Official Opening (4th National Rural Health Conference)

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									        Official Opening

         Hon Richard Court MLA
       Premier of Western Australia

   4th National Rural Health Conference
Perth, Western Australia, 9-12 February 1997

                                 Official Opening
                                 Hon Richard Court MLA
                               Premier of Western Australia

    Chairperson of the National Rural Health Alliance and Conference Convenor, Sue
    Wade; the Honourable Bruce Scott, Federal Minister for Veterans’ Affairs; the Right
    Honourable the Lord Mayor of the City of Perth, Dr Peter Nattrass; Alliance Council
    Members, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

    I am pleased to have the opportunity to address you this afternoon at this, the 4th
    National Rural Health Conference. Clearly the record attendance at the Conference is
    an indication that our State is very much a favoured destination for people at home
    and overseas - and rightly so.

    I am sure this Conference will prove to be a successful sharing of ideas and
    experiences that will benefit all Australians living in rural and remote areas. In past
    years, the Conference has produced ideas and recommendations that have influenced
    national policy development including the National Rural Health Strategy.

    Bringing together people with such diverse backgrounds and experiences to debate
    rural and remote health issues can only help to foster a better understanding of the
    challenges facing rural health service provision and, ultimately, enhance the quality of
    decision making.

    Western Australia, in common with a number of States and the Northern Territory,
    must deal with unique challenges in delivering health services for people living and
    working in rural and remote areas.

    Communities and their health needs vary considerably in Western Australia and
•   isolated Aboriginal communities with poor infrastructure, poor environmental health
    and poor health status;
•   mining communities, some with fly-in-fly-out arrangements;
•   tourist communities with enormous fluctuations in population and demand on
    services; and
•   traditional farming communities.

    On top of this diversity in our rural communities, we must also cope with some
    extreme isolation and difficulties in achieving economies of scale with higher costs of
    service delivery in small and widely dispersed communities.

    All of these challenges point to the importance of solutions that are tailor-made - we
    cannot simply replicate metropolitan health delivery models and expect them to work
    in the country. One of our biggest challenges is to attract and retain health
    professionals in country areas.

In Western Australia we have been particularly active in recruitment and retention of
rural doctors and the State Government has funded the Western Australian Centre for
Remote and Rural Medicine to the tune of $2 million over five years. However, we
must ensure that Federal Government moves to control the oversupply of doctors in
Sydney and Melbourne do not hurt rural and remote areas which are always hardest
hit by any workforce shortages.

Having a resident doctor reassures isolated communities, to the extent that the
availability of health services in country areas is recognised as a significant
community development issue. But the future measure of our success or failure in
rural health will be best assessed by how fairly we assign the health dollar according
to need. If we want to achieve health for all by the year 2000, then there will need to
be some major changes in health financing. For example, is it reasonable for a person
in New South Wales to have ready access to $363 per year in benefits under the
Federal Medicare scheme, while someone in the remote Kimberley or Pilbara region,
with much poorer health status, is only accessing $66 per year on a per capita basis?

What this means is that there is not equal distribution of the basic health funding
available to all Australians. How can our system allow someone with greater need to
have four and a half times less service? For Medicare benefits alone, which is the
basic measure of primary health care delivery, the degree of disadvantage for the
remote population of Western Australia is over $41million. If remote Western
Australians had the same share as their counterparts in New South Wales, then they
would have received a further $41million in primary health care. You do not need to
look much further than this to establish why our health status is poorer.

It is only when we have addressed these issues that we will begin to assess whether
we have achieved health for all.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to Western Australia and to wish you all
the best for the 4th National Rural Health Conference. Thank you.


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