Dr Ewan McPhee. Photo Courtesy of The Rural Doctors Association of Australia.

Media release

Monday 2 May 2016

Renovate, don’t detonate:
Investment in rural health would deliver
“huge dividends”, rural docs urge on budget eve

The Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) has urged the Federal Government to use tomorrow’s
Budget to further invest in the rural health system, and particularly its workforce, saying this would deliver
“huge dividends” in better health outcomes for rural and remote Australians, less hospital stays and much
less pressure on Government coffers.

“Investing more in the rural health sector, and particularly in primary care, is a bit like investing in your
house” RDAA President, Dr Ewen McPhee, said.

“You can choose not to spend any money on renovations or repairs, and you will save a little bit in the shortterm,
but it is going to catch up with you when the ceiling starts leaking during a storm or you have to shuffle
sideways from room to room for lack of space.

“It’s the same with the rural health system — the more meaningful investment that the Government makes in
it now, as opposed to cost-cutting made with little thought as to the ramifications, the better shape the
system will be in and the more effectively and efficiently it will work.

“And quite apart from costing money, an effective and efficient rural health system will actually deliver
dividends in terms of far fewer costly patient retrievals to distant centres, better health outcomes (particularly
for chronically ill patients), and far fewer presentations at already over-worked hospitals.

“Last year, RDAA welcomed in-principle the Government’s 2015-16 Mid Year Economic Fiscal Outlook
announcement of an investment in various areas of the rural health sector — including an Integrated Rural
Training Pipeline and Rural Junior Doctor Innovation Fund to provide prevocational exposure to general
practice. These initiatives build on evidence that doctors who undertake the majority of their training in rural
areas and have positive rural experiences during their training are more likely to become rural doctors.
“We also welcomed the continued funding of the Specialist Training Programme (STP) to enhance
opportunities for regionally-based training in specialty areas other than general practice.

“And we have welcomed the Government’s recent announcement that it will trial a Health Care Home
concept for general practice, to better help manage those patients with chronic conditions.

“While we await the fine details of these announcements, this type of investment, when based on genuine
consultation and implemented in a timely fashion, is very welcome.

“However, these announcements have come against a backdrop in the past two years of other significant
funding changes in the health sector, including a contraction of resources directed to the sector and changes
to the ways in which resources are allocated and programs are supported. This has created uncertainty and
a destabilising effect on the provision of health services in some areas.

“As a result, rural and remote Australians continue to be disadvantaged by poorer access to local health
services, a substantial underspend in Medicare funding, significantly higher rates of disease and injury,
worse health outcomes and a significantly shorter life expectancy compared to people living in urban

“More investment in the rural health system is urgently required if we are to turn this around.

“Equally, rural doctors and their practices, which are the mainstays of rural healthcare, need a supportive
policy environment and realistic levels of funding and business certainty to ensure that they can operate
sustainably now and into the future.

“We hope that the Government will see the sense in funding urgent renovations to the rural health
homestead in this year’s Budget, before the roof falls in.”
RDAA’s Federal Budget 2016-17 submission can be found at www.rdaa.com.au
(see Quick Links on the front page).

Key recommendations from RDAA’s Federal Budget submission:

• Provide realistic levels of funding targeted to improving primary healthcare capacity and enhancing
general practices in rural and remote areas
• Develop a co-ordinated, innovative and flexible approach to the funding of rural health infrastructure
• Promote quality of care and access to a wider range of services by supporting rural generalist services
• Provide flexible rural training pathways to support rural recruitment and retention efforts and sustainability
of the rural medical workforce in the longer term
• Improve co-ordination of funding and service delivery between the Commonwealth and States/Territories

Dr Ewen McPhee is available for interviews in the lead-up to the Budget, and following the Budget.

He will be attending the Health Budget lock-up in Canberra on Tuesday evening.

A high-resolution photo of Dr Ewen McPhee is available here:

Available for interview:
Dr Ewen McPhee on 0419 427 520
Alternative media contact:
Patrick Daley on 0408 004 890