The Commonwealth Parliament introduced the Health Insurance Amendment (National Rural Health Commissioner) Bill 2017 on 9 February 2017. The Bill amends the Health Insurance Act 1973 to establish Australia’s first National Rural Health Commissioner. The aim of the Commissioner will be to improve access to quality health care for people in regional, rural and remote Australian homes. The Commissioner will work with rural, regional and remote communities, the health sector, universities, specialist training colleges and across all levels of Government to improve rural health policies and champion the cause of rural practice.
The position of the Commissioner will be independent and impartial. The role will require the Commissioner to collaborate and consult closely with a broad range of stakeholders with interests in improving health outcomes in regional, rural and remote Australia. The commissioner will be appointed for a period of two years, with a reappointment up until 30 June 2020.
According to the explanatory memorandum to the Bill, the role of the Commissioner will be for:
The aim of the development of the National Rural Generalist Pathway is to address the most serious issue confronting the rural health sector; namely the lack of access to training for doctors in rural areas that would enable specialisation in medical fields. In developing the Pathway, the Commissioner will define what it means to be a rural generalist. The commissioner will also examine appropriate remuneration for rural generalists, to ensure their extra skills and working hours are recognised. By addressing these areas, the pathways will help to encourage more doctors to practise in regional, rural and remote Australia.
Upon satisfactorily tackling this issue, the Commissioner will also look at the needs of nursing, dental health, pharmacy, Indigenous health, mental health, midwifery, occupational therapy, physical therapy as well as other health issues.
The Bill awaits second reading debate in the House of Representatives.
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Health Insurance Amendment (National Rural Health Commissioner) Bill 2017, Bill, Explanatory Memorandum and Second Reading Speech as published on LawOne
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