The AMA has written to Telstra CEO, Mr Sol Trujillo, demanding urgent action to give priority to the installation and repair of landline telephones used by rural doctors.
Chair of the AMA's Rural Reference Group (RRG), Dr David Rivett, was prompted to write to Telstra following a series of complaints from rural doctors about poor and slow Telstra service for telephone landlines that are crucial links to medical care for country Australians.
AdvertisementDr Rivett, a GP in Bateman's Bay, NSW, said the problem was widespread and longstanding and was affecting many rural GPs and country hospital doctors all around Australia.
"The problem is so bad that it is slowing the provision of emergency care and could even cost lives if it is not fixed immediately," Dr Rivett said.
"While all the communications rhetoric is all about advances like broadband, the reality is that Telstra's telephone services in the bush are held together by a rubber band.
"While most rural doctors carry a mobile phone, reception can be patchy or non-existent in some areas, especially when the doctor lives out of town.
"Poor mobile reception is not limited to remote areas, either. We have reports from doctors in larger regional centres such as Lismore having problems with satellite and mobile phone coverage.
"This makes a landline telephone one of the most important tools of the trade for rural doctors, both in their rooms and at home.
"Rural doctors are regularly called to attend emergencies and in many country areas the local GP is the only person available to provide emergency medical care until a patient can be transported to a hospital.
"The AMA is calling on Telstra to put in place a priority landline telephone installation and repair policy for rural doctors whose job is to protect health and save lives.
"It is only fair that country Australians have access to quality emergency medical care that other Australians take for granted.
"Our message to Telstra and Mr Trujillo is that good advice on this urgent matter is only a phone call away - call us."
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