SA Digital Telehealth Network launch
24 August 2012
Australia faces significant, long-term challenges in health service delivery as the pressure on our health system continues to increase.
The reality is we need to deliver more services and we need to deliver them more efficiently.
And we need to deliver the right services to the right people.
To that end, I am proud to say the Australian Government is building a better mental health system.
We are increasing our investment in prevention, as well as early intervention services.
One in three Australians experience mental illness at some stage in their life.
It accounts for 13 percent of the total burden of disease in Australia.
It is the largest single cause of disability, making up 24 percent of the burden of non-fatal disease.[i]
Yet, despite significant gains in primary mental health care too many Australians with mental illness are not getting assistance.
Only 46 percent seek and receive treatment, compared with more than 80 percent for other comparably disabling physical ailments.
The Australian Government is responding.
The Prime Minister has declared mental health a priority, and has appointed this country’s first federal Mental Health Minister – South Australia’s Mark Butler.
She has also established the National Mental Health Commission as an Executive Agency within her portfolio.
This Commission has been established to provide advice to Government to inform future policy directions
It is one of the vital components of the Gillard Government’s record $2.2 billion record mental health reform package.
The Ten Year Roadmap for National Mental Health Reform will be put to the Council of Australian Governments to consider.
It will provide a longer term framework for policy, investment and service design. [ii]
This is the beginning of a journey that will make a real difference to people with a mental illness.
And to their families, carers, friends and the professionals who provide support.
Alongside these mental health reforms, the National Broadband Network will play an important role.
It will help us transform mental health service delivery across the country through new telehealth initiatives.
Digital Regions Initiative
Today, I am very pleased to be launching the South Australian Digital Telehealth Network project.
This is an example of the kind of health services enabled by broadband.
This is a $5 million project funded under the Digital Regions Initiative as a partnership between the Commonwealth and the South Australian Government.
It is improving the delivery of mental healthcare at more than 80 health sites across South Australia.
100 new video conferencing units will deliver better call and image quality for mental health professionals when diagnosing and treating patients.
The network is providing in-patient care, distance consultation services and specialist outreach services to rural areas and Aboriginal mental health services.
In time, this will include round-the-clock emergency triage and liaison services.
It is offering unprecedented support to areas where it has been needed the most.
For example, mental health services are now being delivered to places like Kangaroo Island, Port Augusta and Murray Bridge.
This project is just one of a number of telehealth projects being funded under the Digital Regions Initiative.
I recently launched the $20 million Health eTowns project in Darwin. This is delivering health and education services to mainly indigenous Australians.
It covers 47 remote communities across the Northern Territory and six sites in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia.
NBN-enabled Telehealth Pilots Program
Applications to the $20.6 million NBN-enabled Telehealth Pilots Program are also currently being considered.
I look forward to announcing the successful applicants with the Minister for Health in the near future.
Together, these very different trials demonstrate the potential of telehealth in serving the health needs of Australians.
What we are seeing is a new and better way of delivering healthcare that is truly exciting.
As the NBN is rolled out the potential for improved health care will increase even further, with services like this more widely available.
The South Australian Digital Telehealth Network project is a wonderful example of what can be done.
I congratulate everyone involved in its development and implementation.
[i] Budget: National Mental Health Reform 2011-12
[ii] National mental health reform http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/Mental+Health+and+Wellbeing-1