THE lack of access to health services in regional and remote Australia was one of the chief problems facing the nation's health system, says a report to be released on Thursday.
The report, comparing health performance between regional, remote and metropolitan areas, was released by the Council of Australian Government's Reform Council.
It highlighted vast differences between the primary health, dental care and mental health services available in the nation's major cities when compared with rural and remote areas.
It found that outcomes on preventative health, primary and community care, hospital and related care, aged care, and social inclusion all declined in line with remoteness.
Across the board, there were also increases in elective surgery waiting times and waiting times for general practitioners.
Lung cancer rates were significantly higher in very remote areas than major cities, while melanoma rates were higher on inner and outer regional areas, but lower again in very remote areas.
Sexual disease rates also rose in line with remoteness, with notification rates of both chlamydia and gonococcal higher in regional and remote areas.
"In 2010-11, a significantly higher proportion of people outside of major cities (19.3%) felt that they had to wait an unacceptable time to see a GP, compared to those in major cities (13.9%)," the report reads.
Council chairman Paul McClintock said that across the 70 different health indicators the council reviewed, many were not as strong as past figures, and much of the data was being measured for the first time.
"A lot of the baseline data doesn't tell you much about how these things are progressing, but at least it gives you a picture of how each jurisdiction or states is doing against the national average.
"And it has highlighted a real issue of inequality around the provision of health services, particularly to those in remote and regional areas, indigenous people and low socio-economic status (SES) people."
Mr McClintock said the reform council would present the reports findings back to the COAG, which then had to decide what, if any, action the states and Federal Government would take on the results.
The report said that with few exceptions, health outcomes for Australians living outside our major cities have shown little improvement, or have even worsened.
"People outside of major cities reported more unacceptable waiting times for GPs, were less likely to survive cancer; waited longer for elective surgery; had lower rates of mental health services use and mental health plans; had higher rates of potentially preventable diseases, and had babies that are more likely to have a low birth weight and be born to teenage mothers," the report reads.
"There are similar inequalities in the health outcomes for Australians who live in areas of socio-economic disadvantage and for indigenous Australians."
How Queensland compares:
- Melanoma rate (per 100,000 people): up 38.4% to 67.5 - national rate: 48.8%
- Adult daily smokers: up 13.1% to 21.6% - national rate: 19.1%
- Avoidable deaths (per 100,000 people): up 4.6% to 151.5 - national rate: 144.9
- Elective surgery waiting times (days): down 19.4% to 29 - national rate: 36 days.
- Emergency Department patients seen on time: down 3% to 66% - national rate: 68%