Ken O’Dowd with Senator Connie Fierravanti-Wells and Dr Andrew Laming.
Ken O’Dowd with Senator Connie Fierravanti-Wells and Dr Andrew Laming.

Forum for good health

MENTAL health and aged care facilities are in as much of a crisis in rural and regional Australia as in metropolitan centres according to Shadow Minister for Ageing and Mental Health Connie Fierravanti-Wells.

Ms Fierravanti-Wells said the lack of services was evident around the country but conceded Flynn faced particular problems.

“Here, of course, is a community that has a diverse range of interests compounded by things such as the floods,” she said after a three-hour discussion forum.

“The government has made much of putting in resources, albeit not much in resources, but it is interesting to hear the comments from the ground.

“The caravan has moved on but the problems are still there.”

She said the Labor government had significantly cut the $1.5b Better Access Program to the detriment of the community, resulting in a further reduction in mental health practitioners to the area, which is serviced by two psychologists from Rockhampton and the Gold Coast.

Transient workers compounded the pressure on regional health services, as did tourism.

“When a miner gets sick or injured, he’s getting stitches up at the hospital,” she said. “The Gemfields’ population doubles this time of year but they can’t get the services in health, like the one day a week clinic, because they’ve got double the size of the population for the next few months while the grey nomads come through.”

Senator Fierravanti-Wells said it was important to gauge the region’s population levels to ensure adequate health provisions were made available.

“With aged care, (funding) is divided into zones, it’s divided into a complicated formula based on X number of places per 1000 population,” she said.

“And what I’ve heard here today has enabled me to ask a lot more questions about places where mental health (and aged care) services are needed and particularly the circumstances that are going to affect the region out on the ground in places like Emerald.”

Federal Member for Flynn Ken O’Dowd echoed the senator’s calls for more health facilities and said the desires of ageing residents needed to be taken into consideration.

“We should be able to afford to give them a retirement place of their choosing,” he said.

Regarding mental health, Mr O’Dowd said Central Highlanders needed more readily available services.

“We just can’t sit down with a person and say to that person, ‘have you got a mental health problem?’,” he said.

“It doesn’t work like that.”

Mr O’Dowd said the concerns raised at the discussion forum would contribute toward the Opposition’s counter-health policy.

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