Politics Rural Therapies — 10 April 2018

Royal Flying Doctor Service senior flight nurse Michael Penno. Picture: Kelly Barnes

The Royal Flying Doctor Service will be able to continue providing life-saving mental health care in remote parts of Australia after the federal government provided an $84 million lifeline.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull flew to Broken Hill in western NSW on Thursday along with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack to make the pre-budget announcement.

The Flying Doctors warned earlier this year of a “crisis” because of a lack of mental health specialists in rural and remote areas.

The money will help the 90-year-old organisation employ between 40 and 50 more psychologists and mental health nurses to work in areas where there are few or no services.

The service’s chief executive, Martin Laverty, said people who lived in the bush saw mental health professionals at one-fifth the rate of those living in the city.

“Mental illness is causing our medical and nursing staff extra workload at the moment,” he told reporters in Broken Hill.

“(With this funding) for the first time we can operate the national mental health outreach program for those people who work in country Australia.”

Mr McCormack said it was important to expand the services on offer from the flying doctors.

“Just because you don’t live in the big cities doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t have the same mental health care, the same dental health care as those people who do live in the urban areas,” he told reporters. 

Mr Turnbull described the boost as a substantial increase in mental health services available in rural and remote Australia.

“You’re dealing with some of the most challenging medical emergencies and healthcare environments in Australia and you’re doing so with great love and with great passion,” he told flying doctor service staff, urging Australians to keep up private donations to the organisation as well.

The new federal funding is part of a four-year, $327 million commitment.

The service, which receives one-third of its budget from the federal government, will also extend its dental outreach program beyond 2019.

Areas set to benefit include southeast NSW, the South Australian outback and Central Australia, Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania.

This piece by The Australian Associated Press was first seen on ‘News.com.au‘, 29 March 2017. 

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