Online version of the 2013-14 Department of Health Annual Report

Outcome 6: Rural Health

Access to health services for people living in rural, regional and remote Australia, including through health infrastructure and outreach services

Page last updated: 31 October 2014

Major Achievements

  • Outreach services funded by the Department provided 190,460 consultations by medical specialists, GPs, allied and other health professionals, to people living in rural and remote Australia.
  • The Royal Flying Doctor Service provided essential health services to rural, remote and very remote communities, using funds administered by the Department. This included health clinics and more than 5,200 emergency aero-medical evacuations.
  • The Rural and Regional Health Australia website hosted by the Department provided people in rural, regional and remote Australia with access to information on local health programmes and services that are available to them.

Challenges

  • Stronger recruitment of health professionals to deliver vital outreach services in rural, regional and remote locations under the Rural Health Outreach Fund.

Looking Ahead

In 2014-15, the Department will continue to support the delivery of essential health services to people in rural and remote areas through the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The Department is working with the Royal Flying Doctor Service to develop new funding arrangements to apply from July 2015. The Department will also support the delivery of medical specialties and primary health care services for people in rural, regional and remote regions through outreach programmes such as the Rural Health Outreach Fund and the Visiting Optometrists Scheme.

Programme Contributing to Outcome 6

  • Programme 6.1: Rural health services

Division Contributing to Outcome 6

In 2013-14, Outcome 6 was the responsibility of Indigenous and Rural Health Division.

Outcome Strategy

Outcome 6 aims to improve access to health services for people living in rural, regional and remote Australia38 through a range of targeted rural health programmes and activities. In 2013-14, the Department worked to achieve this Outcome by managing initiatives under the programme outlined below.

Programme 6.1: Rural health services

Programme 6.1 aims to improve access to medical specialists, GPs and allied and other health providers in rural and remote areas of Australia.

Provide rural health outreach services

Rural Health Outreach Fund

Through the Rural Health Outreach Fund, organisations are supported to deliver a range of outreach medical specialties and primary health care services in rural, regional and remote Australia. The availability and commitment of health professionals to deliver outreach health services in rural and remote locations is critical to improving access to services.

Qualitative Deliverable
Undertake grant funding and procurement processes as required to meet the objectives of the Rural Health Outreach Fund
2013-14 Reference Point
New Rural Health Outreach Fund fundholders engaged and services delivered
Result
Met
In May 2013, the Department contracted an organisation in each state and the Northern Territory to administer the Fund. Service delivery by each of the fundholders began in July 2013. Fundholders have increased access to multidisciplinary care in the primary care setting with a wide range of services delivered to prevent, detect and manage health conditions.
Quantitative Deliverable
Number of communities receiving outreach services through the Rural Health Outreach Fund
2013-14 Target
300
2013-14 Actual
460
Result
MetThe number of communities receiving outreach services through the Rural Health Outreach Fund: 2010-11 388 communities, 2011-12 384 communities, 2012-13 421 communities.
Qualitative KPI
Ongoing medical specialist, GP, and allied and other health services provided through the Rural Health Outreach Fund meet the needs of regional, rural and remote communities
2013-14 Reference Point
Organisations funded to support rural outreach will consult with stakeholder groups, and will be guided by Advisory Forums and Indigenous Health Partnership Forums, to identify community needs.
Result
Met
Quantitative KPI
Number of patient contacts supported through the Rural Health Outreach Fund
2013-14 Target
150,00039
2013-14 Actual
190,460
Result
MetThe number of patient contacts supported through the Rural Health Outreach Fund: 2010-11 174,750 patient contacts, 2011-12 191,786 patient contacts, 2012-13 192,985 patient contacts.

Improve access to health and information services in rural, regional and remote areas

Australians in rural, regional and remote communities face unique difficulties accessing health services. The Department continues to support programmes that improve access to health services in these communities, such as the Rural Health Outreach Fund, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and the Rural Women’s GP Service.

Royal Flying Doctor Service

In 2013-14, the Department continued to provide funding for the Royal Flying Doctor Service to provide health care clinics, primary aero-medical evacuations, medical chests (medical and pharmaceutical supplies) and remote consultations. This included the Rural Women’s GP Service in which female GPs visit rural locations that do not have a permanent female GP.

During 2013-14, the Royal Flying Doctor Service provided around 42,608 patient consultations throughout Australia compared with 43,142 in 2012-13. With Government support, the Royal Flying Doctor Service continues to provide essential health services to Australia’s rural, remote and very remote communities.

Quantitative Deliverable
Number of rural locations visited by female GPs40
2013-14 Target
145
2013-14 Actual
150
Result
Met
The number of rural locations visited by female GPs: 2010-11 159 rural locations, 2011-12 149 rural locations, 2012-13 163 rural locationsIn 2013-14, female GP services were provided to 150 rural locations. The target of 145 for 2013-14, (reduced from 170 in 2012-13) reflects the reduced demand for the service due to increased availability of local female GPs.
Quantitative KPI
Number of patients attending Royal Flying Doctor Service clinics
2013-14 Target
40,000
2013-14 Actual
42,608
Result
MetThe number of patients attending Royal Flying Doctor Service clinics: 2010-11 40,981 patients, 2011-12 41,657 patients, 2012-13 43,142 patients.
Health Infrastructure

The National Rural Remote Health Infrastructure Programme aims to improve rural access to funding for essential health services, infrastructure and equipment.

Quantitative Deliverable
Number of new projects funded annually through the National Rural and Remote Health Infrastructure Programme
2013-14 Target
20
2013-14 Actual
0
Result
Not met
No funding rounds have been conducted in 2013-14 and no future funding rounds are anticipated. Commitments under previous funding rounds will continue to be met.

Rural and Regional Health Australia

In 2013-14, Rural and Regional Health Australia (RRHA) continued to provide rural and remote communities with access to information about health and aged care programmes and services available outside metropolitan areas. Its information service comprises a free call 1800 information line, email facility and website.41

In 2013-14, the RRHA website received over 64,000 unique visitors. The information service received 1,139 enquiries (989 calls to the information line and 150 emails) from the public and health professionals.

Qualitative KPI
Rural and Regional Health Australia Information Service provides accurate, quality place-based information
2013-14 Reference Point
Regular reporting and revision of the Information Service to maintain information accuracy and quality
Result
Met

Outcome 6 – Financial Resource Summary

(A) Budget Estimate 1
2013-14
$’000
(B) Actual 2013-14
$’000
Variation
(Column B minus
Column A)
$’000
Programme 6.1: Rural Health Services
Administered Expenses
Ordinary Annual Services (Annual Appropriation Bill 1)
89,000
88,310
( 690)
Departmental Expenses
Departmental Appropriation 2
5,347
5,940
593
Expenses not requiring appropriation in the current year 3
264
290
26
Total for Programme 6.1
94,611
94,540
( 71)
Outcome 6 Totals by appropriation type
Administered Expenses
Ordinary Annual Services (Annual Appropriation Bill 1)
89,000
88,310
( 690)
Departmental Expenses
Departmental Appropriation 2
5,347
5,940
593
Expenses not requiring appropriation in the current year 3
264
290
26
Total Expenses for Outcome 6
94,611
94,540
( 71)
Average Staffing Level (Number)
34
38
4

1 Budgeted appropriations taken from the 2014-15 Health Portfolio Budget Statements and re-aligned to the 2013-14 programme group structure.

2 Departmental appropriation combines ‘Ordinary annual services (Appropriation Bill 1)’ and ‘Revenue from independent sources (s31)’.

3 ‘Expenses not requiring appropriation in the budget year’ is made up of depreciation expense, amortisation, make good expense and audit fees. This estimate also includes approved operating losses – please refer to the departmental financial statements for further information. Some reclassifications have been made to the Budget estimates to more accurately reflect the allocation of departmental depreciation by outcome.