AMA President, Dr Rosanna Capolingua, today urged the new Government to bring forward its promised review of the Northern Territory Indigenous initiative and look to extend the successful health programs nationally to benefit all Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders.
Dr Capolingua said the time was right to build on the most successful elements of the initiative and roll them out all around the nation.
"It is important that we do not lose the momentum of positive outcomes in the Territory communities, especially with the child health checks, and make a real difference to Indigenous health across the country," Dr Capolingua said.
"There must be close consultation with Indigenous community and health service leaders to get feedback on what has been achieved and what has not been achieved in the Territory, and to use this information to shape programs and services for the other States and Territories.
"While there have been differences of opinion about the appropriateness and delivery of some aspects of the intervention, there can be no argument about the success of the health checks.
"The Government should urgently review the health outcomes in the communities and the availability of medical professionals, and then move the programs into the other States and Territories, including into larger centres and the cities.
"Proper resources and better coordinated health services are a priority.
"Engaging and sustaining the specialist and primary healthcare workforce needed for the initial response and the follow-up care for the child health checks is a major challenge.
"A rapid and properly managed national roll out of Indigenous health programs will go some way towards meeting Prime Minister Rudd's pledge to close the 17-year life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
"But the focus must be on getting fewer bureaucrats and more doctors and other health professionals involved in the initiative," Dr Capolingua said.
The AMA has assisted by providing more than half the doctors who have provided their services to the NT initiative and is prepared to continue this role for a national operation.