Alliance Vows to Keep Rural Health Resources
21 January 2014 at 10:25 am
The National Rural Health Alliance says it will do all it can to make sure the now defunct Rural Health Education Foundation’s resources remain available.
Earlier this month the Rural Health Education Foundation, a Not for Profit organisation that provided health education to those living and working in remote and rural Australia, announced it would close its doors after 22 years, due to a decline in government-contracted work that was worth about $2.5 million.
“We are reluctant and very sad to make this difficult decision but it is the responsible one for the business as the reduction in government work means the Foundation is no longer financially viable,” Foundation’s Chair Dr David Rosenthal said.
“Government contracts are fundamental to the Foundation being able to deliver a regular stream of educational programming to those who use our service, which in turn enables us to attract independent contributors and funding.
“At the same time, our enforced move to the digital platform with its associated infrastructure liabilities was effectively a double blow to our financial position.”
The Foundation was working through the closure process by way of a member’s voluntary liquidation, with RSM Bird Cameron appointed as liquidators.
It is in discussions with its suppliers and those who have contracts with the organisation and surplus funds will be provided to a like-minded association, which has already been decided but yet to be announced.
“We expect this process to take a few weeks, as we ensure that all our obligations are met, that our staff are supported during this difficult time, and that our programs currently being broadcast on the Rural Health Channel can remain as accessible as possible,” the Foundation’s CEO Helen Craig, said.
National Rural Health Alliance Chairperson Tim Kelly described the closure of the Foundation as a major setback for wellbeing in more remote areas.
"People in remote areas are well-known for their resilience and this is another poke in the eye they will have to get over,” Kelly said.
“In the decisions it makes about tax and spending in the May Budget, it is to be hoped that the Abbott Government will allow for the special challenges of community life and businesses in remote areas.”
Kelly said the Alliance would do whatever it could to make sure that the Foundation’s resources remain available for as long as they were useful.
"The Alliance will re-commit itself to doing everything it can to help overcome what might be called 'the information divide'," he said.
According to the Foundation, it had produced some of the first of its kind including:
the first to utilise and establish a satellite network of sites to receive regular, accredited health education. This satellite network of sites grew from the original pilot of seven sites in 1992 to 670 sites by 2012;
the first to offer free, accredited health education programs as web-streamed videos and downloadable podcasts via their website;
The first (and only) free-to-air, nationally-available health TV channel – the Rural Health Channel;
The first narrowcaster launched on the government’s digital satellite (VAST) service.
“Healthcare practitioners tell us that accessing education remains difficult and costly for them and that closing the Foundation and the Channel will leave a gap, but we have no choice,” Helen Craig, the Foundation’s CEO, said.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have worked with us over the years for their incredible and generous support. We are very proud of the legacy we leave and wish all those living and working in remote and rural Australia all the very best.”