New primary health care models to improve health service delivery and address workforce shortages in rural areas will be trialled across southern and western NSW as part of the regional health package announced in this week’s Federal Budget.
Regional Health Minister and Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton said the Coalition Government is investing in first-of-a-kind primary care models as part of a broader effort to improve health outcomes for rural Australians.
The 2020-21 Budget invests in new models of primary care and expands rural training opportunities to build the rural workforce of the future. The Government has invested $3.3 million to help pioneer the models across sub-regions in western and southern NSW.
“The challenge of delivering services in small communities is well known, and it is clear the existing one-size-fits-all approach to health delivery isn’t working for every rural community,” Minister Coulton said.
“We are breaking new ground by investing in sub-regional models of primary care to provide local solutions and to test how these new approaches can address perennial rural health challenges across the nation.
“For our region, the Tullamore, Trangie, Tottenham and Trundle communities – known as the 4Ts – will form the first of these trial sites.”
Minister Coulton said the ‘4Ts’ project will test the suitability and sustainability of a shared health workforce across the region. Part of this will include shared GP services and telehealth will ensure resources are better harnessed and available across the region.
“Telehealth will complement in-community service to ensure locals from any of the towns can access services at any time. We’ve seen incredible progress in the delivery of telehealth services, which has shifted from a rural and regional tool to being central to the national pandemic effort,” Minister Coulton said.
The 4T’s model has been under development for some time with the Western NSW Collaboration, which comprises the Western NSW Primary Health Network, Western NSW Local Health District, Far Western NSW Local Health District and NSW Rural Doctors Network.
The Western NSW Collaboration has been working with local health professionals to shape unique primary care models that best fit their relevant communities.
NSW Rural Doctors Network CEO, Richard Colbran said health access issues in small and regional towns were well known.
“The 4Ts communities should be congratulated for recognising that the sum of their work together is greater than working as individual towns,” Mr Colbran said.
“This approach has enabled the construction of a multidisciplinary health service and workforce model that, if successful, could be replicated elsewhere in the country. The aim is to enhance access to quality health care, which can then be sustained.”
Further sites to be funded by the Australian Government will be announced in the future.