In a speech to parliament on Monday the Federal Member for Bass Ross Hart MP welcomed the Government’s long overdue introduction of legislation for the National Rural Health Commissioner.

Since the 2014 budget cut to Health Workforce Australia there has been a general decline in the number of full-time equivalent general practitioners in remote and regional areas, including Tasmania.

This commitment by the Government during the 2016 election followed a commitment by Labor to the establishment of a health reform commissioner tasked with the challenge of dealing with rural and regional health workforce with their policy was welcomed then as it is today with the overdue introduction of the legislation.

The legislation deals with the role of the Commissioner to provide advice to the Minister on the role of rural generalist doctors and develop a National Rural Generalist Pathway.

Both Labor and the Coalition have thrown their support behind the creation of a national generalist training program for country doctors.

In other parts of the country where rural generalist programs exist, there has been a growth of rural general practitioners.

Mr Hart says ‘it has become unacceptable that Tasmanians living in rural and remote areas like North East Tasmania have much poorer health outcomes than those living in our major cities, where suicide rates are twice as high.

Mr Hart used his speech on Monday to call on the Government to make a genuine difference by also making a long-term funding commitment to Rural Alive and Well (RAW).

‘RAW a not-for-profit organisation with a focus on mental health issues and suicide prevention. In December last year was informed that the $350,000 of federal funding it normally used to help fund the 10 outreach workers has been transferred to the state’s Primary Health Tasmania.

‘Organisations like RAW are essential to ensuring the ongoing health of our regional communities, particularly in Tasmania which has the second highest rate of suicide nationally.

‘RAW will be forced to cut its lifesaving outreach services if they fail to secure government funding’ said Mr Hart.