Medicare boost to improve mental health

21st April 2017 10:09 AM
The $9 million four-year telehealth program will ensure residents of small towns and other remote areas can access rebates for seven online videoconferencing consultations with psychologists. The $9 million four-year telehealth program will ensure residents of small towns and other remote areas can access rebates for seven online videoconferencing consultations with psychologists. FILE

A NEW Medicare rebate will boost the mental health of rural and remote Australians.

The $9 million four-year telehealth program will ensure residents of small towns and other remote areas can access rebates for seven online videoconferencing consultations with psychologists.

It means patients will not have to travel to regional centres or big cities to get mental health support from qualified professionals.

Rural and remote areas struggle to attract medical professionals to practise in their areas and research also shows that suicide and self-harm rates are higher outside of capital and regional cities.

This newspaper last year called on the Federal Government to address mental health support gaps across our region through the Fair Go for Regional Australia Campaign.

Starting in November, the new Medicare rebate will be rolled out by the Federal Government's Regional Australia Ministerial Taskforce.

Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Dr Ewen McPhee said the rebates could lead to reduced suicide rates in our region.

"There is no doubt that enhanced access to psychological services will help narrow the gap in health equity for rural people," Dr McPhee said.

"Rural people are stoic. They often do the hard yards in face of the vagaries of the weather, remoteness and the rural economy. When the going is tough it's good to know they can access the same care as city folk.

"Rural suicide rates have never been higher and this is an important investment by the Coalition in the health of all rural Australians."

Australian Psychological Society president Anthony Cichello also welcomed the move, saying online videoconferencing would improve outcomes for rural and remote Australians.

This paper campaigned last year for a Fair Go for Regional Australia. Victories like this are imperative if living standards in remote areas are ever to match the cities.

- ARM NEWSDESK