How health poverty is hurt­ing Rock­hamp­ton res­i­dents

The Morning Bulletin - - NEWS -

POVERTY is push­ing Rock­hamp­ton res­i­dents fur­ther away from health­care, with thou­sands of lo­cals un­able to pay for the ba­sics in­clud­ing den­tal, scripts and doc­tor vis­its.

Spe­cial NewsRe­gional anal­y­sis of fed­eral health data shows 12,609 – 19.6 per cent – of lo­cal adults were un­able to pay for ba­sic den­tal treat­ment in the 2016-17 fi­nan­cial year.

The re­search also shows about 5018 – 7.8 per cent – of lo­cals could not af­ford to have their med­i­cal pre­scrip­tions filled dur­ing the 12 months.

About 4 per cent of Rock­hamp­ton res­i­dents re­ported not see­ing a GP be­cause of cost. The av­er­age out of pocket ex­pense was $9 to $38.

The Aus­tralian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion’s Dr San­dra Hirowatari said health poverty was wide­spread.

“For ex­am­ple, one of my di­a­betic pa­tients pur­chased both the med­i­ca­tion and the needed glu­cose mon­i­tor­ing ma­chine,” the chair of the AMA coun­cil’s re­gional and ru­ral doc­tors com­mit­tee said.

“But for her to follow my pre­scribed treat­ment, she had to go hun­gry (to pay for the medicine and ma­chine).”

Aus­tralian Den­tal As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Dr Hugo Sachs said the sit­u­a­tion was com­pounded by the of­ten long wait to ac­cess gov­ern­ment-funded den­tistry clin­ics.

Dr Sachs said life­long im­pacts could flow from not hav­ing rou­tine oral care – in­clud­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of cer­tain cancers.

“There is an op­por­tu­nity here for gov­ern­ments to re­duce wait­ing lists by in­creas­ing fund­ing,” Dr Sachs said.

“Go­ing with­out den­tal care can lead to sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems for the pa­tient and this will in­crease the cost on the health sys­tem.”

Phar­macy Guild of Aus­tralia’s Greg Turn­bull said he was not sur­prised peo­ple were un­able to pay for scripts.

“It is some­thing that should con­cern health pol­i­cy­mak­ers,” the PGA com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor said.

Queens­land Coun­cil of So­cial Ser­vices CEO Mark Hen­ley said med­i­cal poverty was not be­ing ad­e­quately ad­dressed by gov­ern­ments.

“There is ab­so­lutely no doubt that there needs to be greater in­vest­ment in health ser­vices, par­tic­u­larly in re­gional ar­eas,” Mr Hen­ley said.

Fed­eral Health Min­is­ter Greg Hunt’s spokesman said an ex­pert com­mit­tee was ex­am­in­ing med­i­cal costs and the gov­ern­ment’s plan to en­cour­age more trainee doc­tors to move to re­gional ar­eas would help in the long run.

Poverty is push­ing our re­gion’s res­i­dents fur­ther away from health­care, with lo­cals un­able to pay for ba­sics in­clud­ing den­tal.

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