Significant and urgent funding is needed to address the health care crisis in country Australia, and all political parties should use the upcoming federal election to put forward solutions to bridge the gap between country and city health care.
At the AMA launch of Bridging the Gap - better health care in regional, rural, and remote Australia, AMA Federal President, Dr Rosanna Capolingua, said the major parties must focus on policies that will make a long-term difference, not just temporary measures.
"The reality is a disgrace. An increasing number of communities are grappling with a shrinking medical workforce, fewer local health services, and the closure or downgrade of their local hospital.
"There are excellent programs operating in rural and regional areas to help boost their local health services, but these initiatives will have no long-term impact if the funding is not indexed over time.
"The Commonwealth must commit to provide better funding for health in country areas in the next round of Australian Health Care Agreements, and this must be matched by an equal commitment from the States and Territories."
Bridging the Gap outlines the major areas of need the AMA sees as central to the health care crisis in rural Australia.
Chair of the AMA Rural Reference Group, Dr David Rivett, said health care in rural areas depends on a strong primary health care workforce and a viable public hospital system.
"We need to encourage our young doctors and new medical graduates, to provide them with incentives and support to make the move to the country without tying them down through the current bonded medical places.
"We need excellent initiatives like the Rural Retention Program to be properly funded, so when the young graduates arrive in these regional areas skilled local clinicians are there to help guide them through their post graduate training.
"But even the most dedicated of doctors can't offer their patients the care they deserve if they don't have access to proper facilities. We need to invest in rebuilding our country hospital infrastructure. Australians in rural areas need and deserve decent services and facilities.
"And finally, when access to certain specialist services is not normally available in their home town, patients need to know they can rely on programs like specialist outreach services and patient assisted travel schemes to be there for them.
"Political parties will ignore the plight of rural Australians at their own risk. This Federal election is the perfect opportunity to improve health care in rural, regional, and remote areas. Let's not ignore it."