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AIHW 2016 figure: Map of pharmacist accessibility scores

Is pharmacy absent from new rural health commissioners’ brief?

The Federal government will appoint Australia’s first National Rural Health Commissioner, but initial reports suggest pharmacy may not be a focus for the role.

Assistant Minister for Health, Dr David Gillespie, announced today the government will introduce the Health Insurance Amendment (National Rural Health Commissioner) Bill 2017 into the House of Representatives to establish the role of the Commissioner as part of “important reforms to regional and rural health in Australia”.

Designed to be an “independent and high-profile advocate for regional, rural and remote health”, the Commissioner will be given $4.4 million to work with communities, the health sector, universities, specialist training colleges and across all levels of government to improve rural health policies and champion the cause of rural practice.

Dr Gillespie said “while the Commissioner’s first priority is the development of the medical generalist pathway, the Commissioner’s role will be much broader and will give consideration to the nursing, dental health, Indigenous health, mental health, midwifery and allied health needs in regional, rural and remote Australia”.

“The people of regional, rural and remote Australia are the heart and soul of our country, but their health outcomes are often diminished due to their remoteness and reduced access to health services,” he said.

“The Coalition Government is determined that this be addressed – the role of the National Rural Health Commissioner is to be an independent advocate, giving us frank advice on regional and rural health reform and representing the needs and rights of regional, rural and remote Australia.”

However, the lack of a direct reference to the role of pharmacists in rural and remote areas is sure to provoke a response from a sector that is regarded as the most widely accessible around Australia. 

PSA CEO Dr Lance Emerson said: “PSA looks forward to working with Dr Gillespie to explore opportunities to embed pharmacists in primary healthcare teams across regional Australia, including in GP clinics and Aboriginal Health Services and to ensure the sustainability of the community pharmacy network in rural and remote Australia.

“In our pre-Budget submission, PSA urged the Government to reform funding arrangements to optimise the roles of pharmacists in rural and remote areas to reduce the burden on hospitals and other medical professionals.

“In regional areas, there are often greater hospitalisations as lower levels of primary care force consumers to go to hospital for minor medical conditions that can be treated in a more appropriate setting, including through pharmacies”.

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1 Comment

  1. Karalyn Huxhagen

    Surely the newly appointed commissioner will review the material currently available in this landscape. PSA has been active over successive ministers and political changes in advocating for pharmacy’s and pharmacists role in improving rural health pathways. Many of us have advocated strongly that pharmacy needs its own generalist pathway with increased scope of practice for pharmacists working in these areas. He would only need to read the submissions to the King Review, the last three budgets and the healthworkforce australia review papers to gain a clear insight to the issues . There have been many worthy proposals placed before various rural and indigenous health ministers.

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