Services to rural areas

Why this is a problem+basic facts:

  • People with disability need appropriate access to services wherever they live, including in rural and remote areas.
  • People living in rural and remote Australia don’t have the same opportunities to access services as people living in big cities. There simply isn’t the population base to support the range of specialist services that some people need to access.
  • Around 7 million people—about 29% of the population—live in rural and remote areas. These Australians face challenges due to their geographic isolation, and they often have poorer health and welfare outcomes than people living in major cities.
  • Almost 700,000 women and girls with a disability live in rural and remote Australia
  • Disability tends to be more common in rural and remote areas than in urban areas. People with disability living outside major cities are significantly less likely to access disability support services than those living within major cities
  • People living in small rural and remote communities of Australia face a significant health disadvantage. Generally, mortality and illness levels increase with distance from major cities
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples represent 16% and 45% of all people living in remote and very remote areas

Hence, we need to develop service-delivery models that give families in rural and remote areas access to disability services without forcing those people to compromise or to go without assistance.

Difficulties in solving the problem:

Some of the implications for delivering services to remote ares include: 

  • low population density, which can provide a number of challenges to service delivery, making it more expensive than in cities and larger towns 

  • difficulties in attracting and retaining a professional skilled workforce 

  • distance from key infrastructure, such as hospitals 

  • often a lack of physical infrastructure or poor-quality infrastructure e.g. roads, suitable buildings 

  • harsh climatic conditions and inaccessibility due to weather events for extended periods of time. 

Not-for-profit organisation that deliver services to the disabled:

Senses Australia: Services can be accessed in:

  • Perth Metro
  • Northam
  • Geraldton
  • Bunbury
  • Busselton
  • Margaret River
  • Albany

This non-for-profit organisation utilises telehealth/telepractice as their primary mode of delivery service, Their appointments cost the same as the usual service minus the travel costs.

Possible Solutions:

Telepractice: a therapy service that is delivered partially or completely through remote telecommunication. This may consist of elements including  Skype, video sharing, instant messaging, email, and telephone. This eliminates travel time, and can increase choice in service providers outside the local area. For example, In 2010 Boisvert  found promising results in assessing and treating autism spectrum disorder through telepractice.

  • “And the whole teletherapy thing has been brilliant. It’s just enabled us to access something that we couldn’t, that I would go on a waiting list for weeks.”- mother of a child with a speech disability.
  • Hence, not-for-profit organisations can get clinicians/therapists to set up telecommunication programs to deliver services to disabled people in regional areas.

Allied Health Assistants (AHAs): 

  • AHAs are qualified individuals who work under the supervision of health professionals. They use  fundamental medical knowledge to work with patients who may be injured, ill or disabled. Essentially,  local therapy assistants can be trained to implement programs designed by clinicians who may work hours away. The combination of an Allied Health Assistant and clinician brings expertise in the local community, as well as providing a more regular and timely service to individuals, since the clinician doesn’t need to be physically present at all times. 
  • Fly-In-Fly-Out (FIFO) Practitioners
  • FIFO allied health practitioners who specialise in disability have the potential to empower rural and remote communities, and build capacity amongst generalist allied health practitioners, educators and allied health assistants
  • Many businesses and workers have supported the use of outreach (FIFO) services of health care delivery in rural and remote areas in Australia