Medicare Funding for Dialysis in Remote Communities

 In News

Apunipima Cape York Health Council (Apunipima) welcomes the addition of Remote Dialysis to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). This move by Greg Hunt; the Federal Health Minister and Ken Wyatt; Federal Minister for Indigenous Health, will directly benefit entire communities in Cape York.

The change to Medicare funding that will take effect in November 2018 will make it possible for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in remote Cape York Communities, who require Dialysis, to receive treatment in their own communities. Treatments can also be delivered by a nurse, an Indigenous practitioner or Indigenous Health Worker.

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders are twice as likely to have indicators of chronic kidney disease and one in ten will require ongoing dialysis treatment. Access to Dialysis services is often not possible in remote Aboriginal Communities; this means lengthy and expensive stays away from home, family and community support.

Apunipima Care Coordinator, Kidney Health Australia Ambassador and Butchulla, Kalkadoon, Wirri woman, Rochelle Pitt (left) said that this decision will have several positive impacts on remote aboriginal communities.

“As dialysis patients age, they require increasing levels of care; this means that they must leave community in order to access treatment in major hospitals. Dialysis treatment on country is a big step forward in culturally appropriate, holistic care.”

“We know that long-term medical treatment away from home has a negative impact on social and emotional wellbeing, the family unit and the wider community.” Rochelle said.

“The addition of Remote Dialysis to the MBS will also provide the opportunity for Apunipima to encourage additional training and career opportunities for Aboriginal Nurses and Health Workers in community,” Rochelle added.

The renal health MBS item will cover some of the costs associated with the growing Indigenous kidney disease health crisis. It will improve the life of those in the community that are both directly and indirectly impacted by dialysis treatment. “In the long term, this move by the Federal Government will improve the quality of life of our clients; it will reduce the cost of treatment and have a direct impact on career pathways for the Indigenous people of Cape York.” Rochelle said.

Apunipima are encouraged that the Federal Government are listening and acting on expert Indigenous patient voices and see this latest announcement as a positive step towards closing the gap.