A FUNDING announcement by the Coalition government today has avoided a reduction and grounding of potential services for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS).
At Broken Hill today, ahead of the May budget, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Transport Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack revealed $84 million would go towards lifting mental health resources and dental clinics in regional Australia.
Mr Turnbull said the funding would enable the employment of additional mental health nurses and psychologists by the RFDS which provides medical care to over 330,000 people per year.
“This is a very substantial increase in mental health services being available in rural and remote Australia,” he said.
Mr McCormack said the funding would also enable the RFDS to establish a mental health outreach clinic where doctors can treat people who need it the most, on the ground.
Mr Turnbull said the RFDS was “an iconic Australian service” that regularly visits 217 remote communities and visits 44 different locations each day.
“It provides Medicare-like services, GP-like services to remote locations that don’t have a resident doctor,” he said.
“It’s vitally important that all Australians have access to the best medical services that we can provide.
“We are managing the Budget, bringing it back into balance and at the same time, providing more and better health care to all Australians - including Australians in remote and regional parts of the country.
“This is about ensuring that we deliver the very best medical services we can to Australians, wherever they live.”
It’s understood $20m in the announcement is also aimed at improving dental services in regional Australia and the $84m forms part of a $327m commitment over four years to the RFDS to extend its services to new areas.
Mr Turnbull said an outcome of the funding would be that Australians in regional and remote Australia would be leading healthier, longer live.
He said mental illness was “something that we haven’t talked about enough in years past, it’s been a bit of a taboo” which was why the funding for those services was provided.
“What this is doing is enabling an extra 50 psychologists and mental health nurses to be getting on the plane and going out to those consultations,” he said.
“Whether it could be Marree, it could be the Nullarbor Plains Roadhouse, it could be remote locations in Cape York.
“Right across the country, we are doing everything we can - at the same time as we are bringing the Budget back into balance – we’re doing everything we can to ensure we list the latest, life-saving drugs, we provide additional funding for hospitals across the country and we ensure that we do everything we can so that people in remote and regional Australia, the most remote communities, can get access to top quality medical services.
“We’re doing everything we can to encourage more doctors to work in regional Australia, but there are some communities that are very small and not able to support a full-time medical practice there.
“So that’s one of the reasons the Royal Flying Doctor Service was established all those years ago.”