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Message from the CEO

Telehealth
Our farming readers know that rural Australians don’t just think about the weather for agricultural purposes; they also need to factor in the rain when they need a stable internet connection.  We at the SARRAH National Office have had direct experience of this as we connect with our remote workers in rural locations across three states.  The quality of our video meetings is definitely affected by the weather.

Our members are telling us that they have pivoted to telehealth service delivery with varying levels of success. This is a game-changer for some and will theoretically increase access to and choice of service providers in areas where providers are thin on the ground in rural areas. For other providers, the quality of the internet connection has been a major barrier to delivering services via this modality. 

So how have health consumers managed the switch to telehealth?  Accessing health services via telehealth assumes that the person accessing the service has the hardware, infrastructure and capacity to do so. This also assumes that the person has the space in their home for privacy to engage in telehealth. We know that many rural and remote Australians continue to struggle with access to reliable internet connections. We know that many of our most vulnerable households don’t have the means to engage in telehealth; for that you need access to a connected telephone/internet and devices to support telehealth. So does telehealth highlight the underlying vulnerabilities for socioeconomically disadvantaged groups further?

Looking at the MBS data for frequently billed items for allied health, it appears this may be the case. When we look at the break down of how services are accessed we can see that the overwhelming majority (94.52% to be exact) of allied health services for people with chronic health conditions during the month of April were provided face to face. Of the 24,660 telehealth sessions delivered by AHPs to people with chronic disease over the same period, 68% were via the telephone. Does this suggest a lack of basic infrastructure to support video consultations? The federal government recommends that telehealth should be provided via a videoconference platform unless this is not possible. Why was this not possible for 68% of the sessions delivered to people with chronic disease?

This picture will continue to unfold as we see data released from private health funds and the NDIS as we know that there are many other areas of telehealth that have been core business for allied health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Chronic Disease
The introduction of additional MBS items in late March demonstrated a commitment from the Federal government to ensure all Australian’s had the opportunity to maintain access to primary health services. Allied health professionals are vital in the management of chronic health conditions. Allied health professionals work to improve health literacy and keep people well and out of hospital. The MBS data demonstrates a disturbing trend in access to services during the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020 we saw a 31% drop in the number of MBS claims made for the provision of allied health services in the management of chronic disease compared to the same period last year. Where are these patients? How are their conditions being managed at this challenging and isolating time?
 
SARRAH has been working with our colleagues of the Australian Allied Health Leadership Forum (AAHLF) to raise awareness with the Commonwealth of the need to prepare for a surge in demand for rehabilitation and post-acute care services for both COVID and non-COVID patients.  Currently this area is not well understood by government, particularly those activities that occur in primary health settings, and funding for rehabilitation that happens outside the hospital setting is largely left to private health insurers and third-party payers.  AAHLF is calling for the government to take action to manage a surge in demand for services to the same level as the acute and mental health response has been.  If left unmanaged we may anticipate that the disparity in health outcomes for socioeconomically disadvantaged groups will only widen.

Stay well, everyone.

Cath

SARRAH Telehealth Community of Practice

As remote working becomes the new norm, telehealth is more popular than ever. SARRAH is ready to support allied health professionals navigate telehealth. To find further info or join our SARRAH Telehealth Community of Practice email sarrah@sarrah.org.au or visit our dedicated telehealth resource page here.
SARRAH Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway
COVID-19 has fundamentally changed how we do business and highlighted how allied health can adapt to thrive. An Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway grant can support you in recruiting or retaining an early career professional to future-proof your business by capability in emerging areas like telehealth. The overarching goal of the Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway strategy (AHRGP strategy) is to improve health outcomes for rural and remote consumers through increasing access to a highly skilled allied health workforce and enhancing opportunities for multi-disciplinary care in rural healthcare teams. Applying is simple and will help you put the right foot forward in this new era. Visit https://sarrah.org.au/ahrgp to learn more and apply.
Tickets are selling fast for our next webinar.  Numbers are limited, so get in quick!


Webinar recording of "Experiences and Outcomes of Rural Generalist Trainees in QLD, NSW and TAS" now available!

On Thursday 19 March a group of Allied Health Rural Generalist trainees presented summaries of their service development projects. You can catch the recording here

Current Job Vacancies
Senior Clinical Podiatrist - SA Health - Riverland Mallee Coorong Local Health Network
The Senior Clinical Podiatrist is an experienced clinician who applies significant clinical and leadership expertise to the development, delivery and continuous improvement of quality Podiatry services appropriate to the rural and remote context. Operating within a multi-disciplinary service context, the Clinical Senior Podiatrist upholds professional standards and provides complex clinical and consultancy Podiatry services across the Riverland Mallee Coorong. For more information visit our website.

Physiotherapist – Katherine Physio - Katherine
Rural Workforce Agency Northern Territory (RWA NT) are partnering with Katherine Physio to find a Physiotherapist to join their passionate Katherine based team. Katherine Physio is a community based practice who work hard to educate their patients on their condition and empower them with the tools to assist self-management. For more information visit our website.

Occupational Therapist - Top End Health Service - Darwin/Palmerston
Provision and co-ordination of clinical Occupational Therapy (OT) Services at the Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH) and Palmerston Regional Hospital as well as specific leadership, supervision/mentorship and education to directly reporting staff, as well as other professionals within their own team and/or across disciplines throughout the Top End Health Service (TEHS). Advanced clinical experience in any of the following areas, Paediatrics, Hand Therapy, or Surgical. For more information visit our website.

Upcoming Events and conferences 

OT Exchange 2020
22-23 June 2020
Online Conference
HIC 2020
19-21 October 2020
Brisbane, QLD
21st International Mental Health Conference
12-14 November 2020
RACV Royal Pines Resort, Gold Coast, QLD
Child & Adolescent Mental Health Conference
25 - 27 November 2020
Mantra Legends, Gold Coast
Associations Forum National Conference
30 November - 1 December 2020
Royal International Convention Centre, Brisbane
The 2020 Workplace Mental Health Symposium
TBC
Hilton, Brisbane, QLD1
7th Rural and Remote Health Scientific Symposium:
Shaping the future

TBC
Alice Springs Convention Centre, NT
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Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health
Unit 4, 17 Napier Close, Deakin, ACT, 2600

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