Author: Hamed Shahnam
As a young health professional, I have practiced and worked in a diverse range of settings and have had the opportunity to experience a variety of roles prior to entering medical school. I’ve come to ponder upon the future of healthcare in Australia and the current trajectory and circumstances. Whilst, I acknowledge that my view is not conclusive and am not attempting reprimand or critique rather to highlight the issues that are explicitly evident in the healthcare system.
My first concern relates to the state of rural and indigenous healthcare. I have worked within the hospital setting both in Central Australia and rural South Australia. Indigenous health is a passion of mine and we are all well aware of the challenges faced by practitioners intent on closing the gap. Rural healthcare, of which indigenous health is an integral component is faced with enormous obstacles. There is an evident lack of resources and facilities that creates difficulties in delivering optimal care to patients.
Furthermore, it is a challenge to recruit and retain health professionals to stay long-term and to help address these health disparities, thereby creating long waiting periods that progress and complicate health status of patients. Moreover, the vastness of this magnificent continent generates logistical challenges in delivering care. Patients often travel long distances or may not have access to transport to seek help.
Of indigenous health so much requires attention. Most obviously the communication and cultural barriers that impede and disconnect the patients from their health professionals. In addition the social factors that create a revolving door approach to healthcare. Factors such as inadequate accommodation, nutrition, employment and education are essential to maintaining good health. What of the cultural unpreparedness of health professionals dealing with indigenous patients? How can we integrate contemporary medicine with indigenous health concepts and spirituality? Hope is not lost, mainstream Australia is awaken to the ever widening health disparities…
Another major issue is the aging population of Australia. This dilemma is confronted by many other countries and is not unique to Australia. Advances in medicine have led to improvements in quality of life and increased life expectancy of patients. The aging population will be placing enormous demands on resources, trained staff and healthcare accessibility. The issues are complicated by an ever-growing list of new and costly therapeutics that place further pressure on finite resources. Is the current healthcare system prepared for the future? Are patients and health professionals positioned to accept the limitations of the current model and finite resources?
Related to the previous paragraph is the growth of chronic and lifestyle diseases that are becoming more prevalent in younger adults and children. We are faced with a growing epidemic of obesity, diabetes and Cardiovascular disease. These illnesses were absent in or less prevalent in previous generations of similar age group. This places further pressure on resources and management of complications associated with these conditions. Nevertheless, hope is not lost and positive steps in the right direction are being taken….More on that in my next update.