A federal parliamentary inquiry has recommended that Australian public hospitals provide abortions in an effort to improve regional and rural womens' access to reproductive healthcare.
A senate inquiry into the accessibility of contraceptive and abortion services Ending the Postcode Lottery acknowledged the divide between regional and urban communities.
Among the 36 recommendations made by the Greens-led inquiry was for contraception to be made more affordable, as well as establishing a national contraception, abortion and sexual health hotline referral service.
It also recommended increasing the Medicare rebate for healthcare workers who provide long-acting reversible contraceptives.
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Dr Nicole Higgins, who works as a GP in regional Queensland, said these recommendations would have tangible benefits for women in regional and rural areas.
"Support for GPs to train in insertion and removal of long-acting reversible contraceptives will help more rural and regional GPs to offer these services," she said.
"The recommendation that the government ensure adequate Medicare rebates for GPs, nurses, and midwives to administer long-acting reversible contraceptives will also help to increase access and affordability outside big cities."
Women in regional and remote areas faced significant barriers to sexual and maternal healthcare including distance, affordability and stigma. The report found that women and girls living in these communities had poorer health outcomes than their metropolitan counterparts.
National Rural Health Alliance chief executive Susanne Tegen said she welcomed the focus on supporting allied healthcare workers in regional and remote communities.
"It is crucial that we continue to service the women that live in rural and remote Australia because they add considerable value to the Australian economy and they require equitable access to what their city counterparts receive," Ms Tegen said.
"We were pleased to see the recognition of cost as a barrier to accessing contraceptive care, as well as inadequate remuneration of health professionals.
"So that's medical and health professionals as a barrier to providing contraceptive care. That needs to be acted on. There is a reason why we don't have clinicians on the ground, and it starts with the training of medical and allied people in in rural and remote Australia."
IN OTHER NEWS:
In April of this year the Australian Capital Territory became the first Australian jurisdiction to offer free access to medical and surgical abortions, up to 16 weeks of pregnancy. The policy could save those needing the procedure around $600.
Greens senator Larissa Waters said her party would push for all recommendations to be implemented as soon as possible.
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