Prioritise rural mobile infrastructure

The federal government rollout of new mobile base stations in regional cities has been welcomed, but remote and rural communities should be prioritised, according to the National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA).

NRHA CEO Mark Diamond says this week’s announcement of new mobile base stations is good news for regional communities who require improved access to e-health services, but concerns remain for people living in the most isolated and remote parts of Australia.

“Telehealth, e-health, and tele-monitoring services are vital in our rural, regional and remote communities where services are thin on the ground,” he said. “They help bridge the gap in delivering essential health services to isolated communities and they currently struggle due to inadequate infrastructure.”

Mr Diamond says rural and remote communities are missing out on vital healthcare services due to a lack of affordable and fit-for-purpose telecommunications and data connectivity infrastructure in the bush.

“You can’t have telehealth consultations occurring when the infrastructure doesn’t exist to make it work,” he said.

“The announcement from Senator [Bridget] McKenzie this week to introduce 180 new base stations as part of round four of the program will result in 1,000 base stations being established as part of the government’s ‘mobile blackspot’ program. Reliable 4G voice and data communication is an important method of establishing connectivity for remote and isolated communities, the very communities that have the highest healthcare needs.

“We need a more robust and priority commitment to improving telecommunications infrastructure in very remote areas as well as regional cities.

“These communities should be at the top of the list when it comes to delivering reliable and advanced infrastructure to enable the delivery of online and tele health services that are so desperately needed. The recent $33.5 million announcement by the Minister for Health Greg Hunt for GP telehealth services to be made available to people in the most remote parts of Australia requires this sort of investment.”

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