Territory Stories






National Rural Health Alliance newsletters and media releases; PublicationNT; E-Journals




Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT).; This publication contains may contain links to external sites. These external sites may no longer be active.


This publication contains many links to external sites. These external sites may no longer be active.; Includes Health Impact Assessment articles on the Territory




Rural Health Services -- Northern Territory -- Periodicals; Community Health Services -- Northern Territory -- Periodicals

Publisher name

The National Rural Health Alliance Inc.

Place of publication

Deakin (A.C.T.)


Number 39

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Check within Publication or with content Publisher.

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4 EDITORIAL ORAL HEALTH Building a strong future for rural and remote oral health services The last decade has seen some significant changes in oral health professional education, with positive ramifications for rural and remote Australians. Over the decade there has been a near doubling of the number of dental schools in Australia, setting the stage for an increase in graduating dentists and oral health therapists from around 300 to about 600 a year by 2015. This in itself is a very significant change and will go some way to ameliorating the effects of Australias longstanding shortage of oral health practitioners (although a significant shortage is predicted to remain for at least the next decade). However, even more importantly, three of the new dental schools are based in rural and regional Australia and have as part of their core goals the challenge of meeting the needs of country Australia. One of the three is in Bendigo (Victoria) and surrounds, one in Orange (New South Wales) and surrounds, and one in Cairns (North Queensland) and surrounds. The last two of these initiatives - at Charles Sturt University and more recently James Cook University - have been supported by significant Federal Government funding, a welcome first for the development of dental schools in Australia. It is well known that students with significant exposure to rural life are more likely to practise in rural areas at some stage during their careers. 2009 saw the greatest number of dental students in Australian history start training in rural areas, with many of these coming from rural backgrounds, another key predictor of likelihood of future rural practice. Although it will take five years for these new Schools to start producing dental graduates (three years for oral health therapy graduates), the become swamped by the needs and decisions of the larger towns and/or regional centres in the new jurisdiction of which they are a part. COAG has determined that the boundaries of the Medicare Locals (MLs) will be agreed by December 2010 and that, wherever possible, those boundaries will be shared with LHNs. The LHNs and MLs should be required to have shared vision statements and strategic plans in order to work closely together towards a common purpose which focuses mainly on keeping people healthy and out of hospital. The LHNs will manage the hospital services within their jurisdiction. The MLs will establish baseline levels of service and unmet needs, and commission, broker or even supply the services required to fill the identified gaps. They will also be advocates for and planners of health workforce adequacy in their area. The bottom line for the governance arrangements put in place must be that health needs of the district are the driver of decisions made. Governance arrangements for both entities will be critical. Governments have agreed that the governing bodies for both entities will include expertise in health management, business management and financial management. The issue of local clinicians on the governance bodies appears to be contested but is one on which the NRHA and all local people have a clear view: they must be included. People in rural and remote areas will remain strongly opposed to the idea that clinicians on local boards of the LHN should be from outside their own region. In smaller and disadvantaged communities there will need to be support for developing governance solutions that are appropriate to local circumstances. The bottom line for the governance arrangements put in place must be that health needs of the district are the driver of decisions made. Where local clinicians, consumers and managers support the idea, the LHN and the ML should be able to amalgamate into a single entity. To be effective, it will be critical for the LHNs and MLs to be based on geographic communities of interest that will sometimes span State and Territory boundaries. Albury-Wodonga is one region where this should be the case and where significant progress has been made over the years in developing sensible arrangements across two state jurisdictions. (The full address is on the Alliance website: www.ruralhealth.org.au then select Transcripts.) Dental services at a remote clinic in WA. PHOTO: KATE DYSON 5 http://www.ruralhealth.org.au

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this website may contain the names, voices and images of people who have died, as well as other culturally sensitive content. Please be aware that some collection items may use outdated phrases or words which reflect the attitude of the creator at the time, and are now considered offensive.

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