AMA’s third report on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health

AMA President, Dr Bill Glasson, today released the AMA’s third report on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, ‘Healing Hands – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Requirements’.

Based on an Access Economics report commissioned by the AMA, the report calls for increased targeted funding, more Indigenous health workers and more non Indigenous health workers committed to working with Indigenous people.

Dr Glasson said Indigenous health is currently underfunded by at least $452.5 million a year.

“Primary care services for Indigenous people are underfunded by $400 million a year,” Dr Glasson said.

“There is also a critical shortage of health professionals providing services to Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders. We’re looking at a shortfall of 430 doctors and 450 others.

“New training places must be conditional scholarship places that require a period of work in Aboriginal medical services.

“The cost of funding additional training places to address the total shortfall of all health professionals is $36.5 million a year, running to $167 million over six years.

“As well as increasing the workforce, it is also critical to increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders employed within the general health workforce.

“Around 2.4 per cent of the Australian population identifies as Indigenous. Representation in the medical workforce should reflect this number.

“In order to meet this long term target, we need to train an additional 928 doctors, 149 medical imaging professionals, 161 dentists, 2,570 nurses, 275 pharmacists, 119 occupational therapists, 59 optometrists and 213 physiotherapists. An additional 2,000 Aboriginal health workers are also needed.

“The AMA is calling for fully funded training places to close the workforce gap and estimates this would cost $6 million a year for the first four years, rising to $10 million annually thereafter.

“An additional $10 million a year is needed to support Indigenous students through support unit services similar to the very successful Indigenous Health and Education Unit at the University of Newcastle,” Dr Glasson said.

Dr Glasson said that we must learn from the successful local health programs working in some communities and use them in other areas of Indigenous health need.

“There are talented, dedicated people doing great things in some communities – from remote areas to the inner cities.

“With well targeted funding, these successful programs can be repeated in more communities around the country,” Dr Glasson said.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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