Royal Flying Doctors Receive Funding Boost To Address Rural Mental Health
29 March 2018 at 5:30 pm
The Turnbull government has announced an $84 million funding boost for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, to provide mental health resources and dental clinics for regional Australia.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made the announcement at a RFDS base in Broken Hill on Thursday, with this new funding part of a four-year $327 million commitment enabling the charity to expand its services.
This commitment from the government will support continued fly and drive in medical, nursing, and dental services in remote Australia, as well as the creation of a national mental health program.
“This is going to enable the employment of additional mental health nurses and psychologists by the RFDS, which of course provides medical care to over 330,000 people a year,” Turnbull said.
“So this very is a substantial increase in mental health services being available in rural and remote Australia.”
Speaking on ABC radio, Turnbull said that the funding would help address issues with mental health affecting regional and remote Australia.
“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… so that people in remote and regional Australia, the most remote communities, can get access to top quality medical services.”
RFDS CEO Dr Martin Laverty said the funding was much appreciated.
“All who live, work, and travel in country Australia can do so knowing the RFDS is on standby if needed, thanks to support of the Liberal-Nationals government,” Laverty said.
“RFDS cared for 335,000 Australians last year in the air, on the ground, or via telehealth. Our aeromedical and dental services now have certainty. We can now also deliver a new mental health service to underserved country areas in all states and the Northern Territory.
“This May marks 90 years of the RFDS overcoming barriers in access to health care for country Australians. The [government’s] support enables the RFDS to continue working to improve health of country communities.”
This funding boost comes two months after groups including the RFDS and Mental Health Australia warned of a “crisis” in mental health service access in rural Australia, and called for action to address underfunding in mental health services for people in regional and remote areas.
Mental Health Australia CEO Frank Quinlan noted that remote Australians “see mental health professionals at one fifth the rate of city people”.
“Large parts of country Australia have no registered psychologists. This new funding for mental health care in remote Australia will help to fill that gap,” Quinlan said.
Australian Dental Association CEO Damian Mitsch added that country areas have around one third the dentists of city areas, and that the RFDS dental program would expand oral health care to country people.
National Rural Health Alliance CEO Mark Diamond said that the RFDS was not just about health care.
“Its 24 hour service assures people in remote Australia that care is a short flight away. The funding enables remote communities to rely on the RFDS to fly to help when needed,” Diamond said.