Data on health system performance in rural Australia paint a mixed picture, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
The report, Rural, regional and remote health: indicators of health system performance, found hospitalisation rates were up to 55% higher for people living in remote areas than for people living in major cities.
It also found that rates for several common medical procedures were lower for people living in remote areas than for those living in major cities.
'Examples include medical procedures for heart disease management, such as coronary artery bypass graft,' said report author Sally Bullock.
'This finding is particularly noteworthy as death rates from coronary heart disease were up to 40% higher in remote areas compared to cities,' she said.
In general, the number of medical specialists and dentists per head of population decreased with remoteness, but their working hours increased.
On the other hand, the supply of nurses and primary care doctors was more evenly spread across regions.
'Another interesting finding was that people with disability living outside major cities were significantly less likely to access disability support services than those living within major cities,' Ms Bullock said.
This report is based on the Rural Health Information Framework, which was established to help understand and to monitor the health of regional and remote populations.
The framework has three dimensions: health status and outcomes, health determinants, and health system performance. This report relates specifically to health system performance.
A complementary report focusing on indicators of health status and determinants of health was published in March 2008.