Rural health debate must be about keeping people out of hospital

Thursday 25th March, 2010

The Australian Nursing Federation has called on the government to place a greater emphasis on primary health care in rural communities - this means employing more nurses in schools, general practice, the community and even in workplaces.

ANF Federal Secretary Ged Kearney said health reform must focus on how to keep people healthy and out of hospital.

“It is important to broaden the debate from talking about how to deal with those who are sick to how we are going to keep rural and regional Australians as healthy as possible, for as long as possible,” she said.

“Nurses in schools, work places and local centres already greatly improve the health outcomes of that community. We need to build on this and offer these services to more Australians.'

“An increased number of nurses in general practice will also shorten doctor waiting times while providing expert care to those patients.”

“Making healthcare a part of everyday life will educate people and teach them how to protect themselves from serious illness.”

“Australia has one of the largest hospital admission rates. We need to keep people out of hospital with expert preventative healthcare.”

“This means more school nurses, occupational health and safety nurses, community, maternal and child health nurses and - critically - more community based mental health nurses.”

Those in rural and remote areas would benefit greatly from such measures.”

Ms Kearney said the aged care sector was also inextricably linked to any discussion about health reform.

“We need to keep aged care residents as well and as comfortable as possible. Thousands are ending up in hospital when they could have received treatment from a nurse at their home. This puts immense pressure on the hospital system and costs taxpayers a significant amount of money each year.”