Fresh calls for better broadband in regional Australia
REGIONAL and rural health services could fall further behind big cities without urgent action, a new Australian Medical Association report warns.
The AMA released its Position Statement on Better Access to High Speed Broadband for Rural and Remote Health Care on Friday.
It calls on the Government to improve internet access and affordability across the nation.
AMA Vice President, Dr Tony Bartone, said rapid improvements in technology had the potential to deliver better health outcomes at lower cost outside major cities and towns through telemedicine and eHealth.
"Regional and rural communities already face a range of disadvantages when compared to their city counterparts,” Dr Bartone said.
"They have more difficulty accessing health services close to home, are more likely to put off visiting their GP due to distance and cost, and have higher rates of potentially preventable hospitalisations.
"Many regional and remote areas have very poor internet connections, with relatively small download allowances, and at a much higher cost and slower speed than the services available in our cities.
"Many rural doctors told us of the problems they encounter with slow and unreliable internet access, not only for conducting day-to-day business, but also for caring for patients via eHealth and telemedicine.
"The Government must take action to ensure that all Australians have access to reliable, high speed broadband, and the health care services it can enable.”
The Position Statement calls on the Government to adopt the recommendations of the 2015 Regional Telecommunications Review to develop a new standard for voice and data.
The AMA also calls on the Government to:
- Extend the boundaries of the NBN's fibre cable and fixed wireless footprints, and mobile coverage, wherever possible;
- Begin an incremental process of expanding the terrestrial network to address increased usage in the future;
- Develop measures to prioritise or optimise the broadband capacity available by satellite for hospitals and medical practices, either by exempting or allocating higher data allowance quotas, or by providing a separate data allowance;
- Create universal, unmetered online access to Government, hospital and health services for people in rural and remote areas;
- Establish an innovation budget for development of local infrastructure solutions for rural and remote areas and;
- Engage with State and local government and stakeholders to co-invest or coordinate planning to achieve the optimum overall infrastructure outcome for their area.
The AMA Position Statement on Better Access to High Speed Broadband for Rural and Remote Health Care can be accessed here.