It's a fact: Marginal seats get the money
At the upcoming federal election on May 18, the electors of Indi and Farrer have the opportunity to send a powerful message to Canberra. Our electorates and our health service are continuing to be ignored and under-resourced.
Ten years ago, Border doctors wrote an open letter in The Border Mail urging the establishment of Albury-Wodonga Health. We believe that this intervention helped the momentum to see the service established. Last year we said farewell to Mr Neil Bright one of the leaders of our medical community. Ten years ago, he wrote a letter to The Border Mail telling of "chronic under-investment and neglect by federal and state governments of all persuasions in the region's medical system." Not much has changed since then.
We wrote to you before the Victorian state election and we write to you again urging that you put the health of our communities at the top of consideration in whom you vote for. Recently Albury-Wodonga Health Service received small sums of money for new infrastructure from the Victorian and NSW governments. Whilst welcomed, these announcements are a fraction of what's needed. Poor funding is limiting our ability to service the daily health needs of our communities.
Medical services have grown rapidly, and more and more people are able to receive care locally. It has been a very positive move for the region. Albury-Wodonga Health is now the busiest health service in regional Victoria. It supports a broad regional population and smaller health services on both sides of the border, yet we are denied some basic health infrastructure such as a data system to adequately count patients or audit cancer outcomes.
The Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre may run out of funding before the end of this financial year. There are long waiting times to see specialists.
We have watched other regional centres such as Ballarat and Bendigo receive more than $1 billion in health infrastructure. Although Albury-Wodonga treats more patients, Albury-Wodonga receives less funding per year than Ballarat and Bendigo. Is it just a co-incidence that they are in marginal seats?
Each year more country cancer patients die than cancer patients in the city. We are fortunate that our region has survival rates approaching that of the city, but good results are not uniform across the country. In Victoria alone, it is estimated that there are more than 500 extra deaths in country patients per year, every year. This is just in cancer. In some parts of remote Western NSW within the Farrer electorate, life expectancy has fallen to levels seen in North Korea. Mental health services remain under resourced, costing lives.
We are already seeing the impact of climate change on the physical and mental health on our communities.
The doctors signing this letter believe that we need fundamental change in the way health resources are distributed. Medicare spending and state hospital spending chronically disadvantages country patients. Freezing of Medicare rebates disproportionately disadvantages country patients. We urgently need to address unfair city-country differences in health funding.
We have tirelessly advocated for improvements to our local health services we but remain frustrated at the lack of progress from state and federal governments. We will continue to speak up for our patients and our communities. We have watched the growing sense of frustration in regional Australia at the way country people are ignored by government. "Business as usual" is killing our communities. It's time for a new way and new funding. The health of our community and our families depends on it.
Consider making your vote count to change business as usual.