John Menadue’s searing critique of rural health

CPD’s John Menadue was recently invited to speak at the 11th National Rural Health Conference, held in Perth in March 2011.

One in three Australian live in rural and remote Australia but they are often overlooked by a public health sector that is geared towards servicing city dwellers and securing hospital resources. Critical areas such as rural health, Indigenous health and mental health are squeezed out of the equation.

In his paper Beating the hospital obsession; the key to rural health reform is in primary care, John outlines the minority Labor Government’s proposed reforms and actions thus far, and how concentrating on an integrated approach to primary care and the upskilling doctors and nurses will be key to driving real change.

Here’s a summary of what John had to say…

– Power is the single biggest problem in the health sector, which is driven by providers and stakeholders who direct health resources to areas of self-interest

– Thanks to the rural independent MPs who hold the balance of power, Australia has a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to effect significant rural health reforms

– We need to stamp out inefficiencies in our health system. The CPD estimates that $10 billion or 10% of our total health expenditure is wasted due to inefficiencies.

– Move away from hospitals to instead encourage primary care and the provision of integrated care. This means upskilling doctors and more nurse practioner-led clinics. There are more doctors per capita in Australia compared to New Zealand, the US and the UK, so the next challenge is to improve General Practice and make it more appealing as a long-time profession

– Improving health outside of the health portfolio. Social factors such as poverty, prevalence of junk food and alcohol in our culture, education and childcare all impact on health. The NBN also offers opportunities in improve health services, particularly in remote areas, in terms of facilitating online payments and the transfer of data-rich information in real-time high-definition videos and images.

READ the summary transcript of John Menadue’s presentation here.

WATCH the video presentation John Menadue delivered at the conference here.

IN THE NEWS: John Menadues’ comments get picked by Melissa Sweet in Crikey here and here.