Healthcare in Australia1st May 2007
Perhaps the most renowned aspect of Australia’s healthcare system is its Royal Flying Doctor Service. Founded in 1928 by the Reverend John Flynn, it is unique to Australia and provides a 24-7, year-round aero medical emergency and healthcare service to people who live, work and travel in Australia's remote outback. The service operates from seventeen bases and employs 38 aircraft to fly over its ‘territory' of 7,150,000 square kilometres. Less legendary aspects of the service’s work include the 6,000 health clinics it holds each year treating up to 120,000 patients. Consultations with specialists are often carried out over the telephone but can mean the difference between life and death for a stranded patient. The Royal Flying Doctor Service is funded by central and local government grants as well as its own fundraising efforts with businesses and individuals.
For those living in less remote parts of Australia, a more standard westernised public healthcare system is available. Australian residents are expected to pay for GP treatment and specialist consultations. However, most people are members of one of about 110 medical benefit societies which then entitles them to commonwealth subsidies towards medical costs. Most people also join a medical benefit society to pay for hospital costs however, the government will pay for the hospitalisation of those who pass a means test. Medicare is the system which funds most of the country’s public healthcare. Medicare provides access to free treatment for members, as well as subsidised private medical treatment from doctors and specialists.
As with other western cultures, the alternative medicine industry is booming in Australia and it is estimated that the market is currently worth over one billion dollars. Such rapid growth is thought to be due to increasing concerns over the side effects of traditional medicines and patients wanting to take a more active role in their health and well being. More than half the Australian population is said to use some kind of herbal or complementary medicine and the industry is said to be growing by 30% each year.
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