The Rudd Government has announced it is investing AUD$204.3 million in the 2009-10 Budget to improve health care in Indigenous communities and help close the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
The Government is providing AUD$58.3 million over four years to improve access to eye and ear health care across Australia, particularly in remote and rural areas.
Approximately 20,000 Indigenous children suffer from trachoma in Australia. The early onset of middle ear infection results in fluctuating hearing loss, preventing active participation in education and limiting employment opportunities.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are also at increased risk of developing avoidable blindness and vision loss and are less likely to visit eye health care practitioners than other Australians.
The funding will provide:
- At least 1,000 additional eye and ear surgical procedures.
- A major increase in services to address trachoma, which will enable at least 10 regional teams to treat and help prevent the disease in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia and other states where trachoma is identified.
- Expansion of the Visiting Optometrist Scheme in remote and very remote communities.
- Increased training of health workers to help early diagnosis of hearing problems.
- Investments in hearing medical equipment.
- Hearing health promotion to increase awareness of ear disease and the importance of providing and following treatment to reduce hearing loss in Indigenous communities.
A spokesperson for the Federal Health Department says the funding will also boost the qualifications of health professionals by increasing accredited training and improving the coordination of patient care.
It will also improve the early detection and treatment of eye and ear health conditions, leading to improved employment outcomes and increased participation in community life.
Besides the AUD$58.3 million for eye and ear health care, the Government has committed AUD$131.1 million for remote primary health, AUD$11.0 million for dental care and AUD$3.8 million to improve pathology services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.