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How do we close the healthcare gap?

As part of National Close the Gap Day today (Thursday), the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association has urged governments to act in favour of Indigenous health.

AHHA strategic programs director Dr Chris Bourke said Australia had great foundations for a healthy population and successful healthcare system, but the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians was not yet closing.

"While reasons for the gap are multi-factorial, there is one simple, concrete improvement that the Australian Government could make in terms of making access to key medicines easier for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people," he said.

"To give credit where it is due, in 2010 the Australian Government introduced the Closing the Gap Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) Measure, and the Remote Area Aboriginal Health Services s100 program to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander access to medicines and pharmacy services.

"While the programs are both of great benefit, a key problem is that they are limited by location — substantial gaps remain around access for people when they are away from home, whether in a regional town visiting family, or in a metropolitan hospital receiving treatment for a serious illness.

"This problem has been highlighted in work the AHHA is doing in partnership with the Heart Foundation to improve cardiac care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in public hospitals – the Lighthouse Hospital Project."

The organisation made several recommendations on the topic in its pre-budget submission earlier this year, including:

  • Enabling hospitals – when they are discharging registered Closing the Gap patients – to access Closing the Gap funding to provide medication supply and Dose Administration Aids.
  • Revising registration of patients for the Closing the Gap PBS Measure to include patients typically accessing medicines through Remote Area Aboriginal Health Services.
  • Revising the prescriber categories for Closing the Gap prescriptions to include both Remote Area Aboriginal Health Services and hospitals.
  • Adding the provision of Dose Administration Aids to the list of medicines funded through Closing the Gap.

For more information visit: http://ahha.asn.au.

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