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Jesuit Policy Unit says health services not reaching disadvantaged

The poor and the disadvantaged miss out on specialised health services available through General Practitioners, according to a study released yesterday by the Melbourne-based Jesuit Policy Unit.

Jesuit Social Services director Fr Peter Norden said the neglect of the poor in regional Victoria did not end with the fall of the Kennett Government two years ago.

"Governments continue to neglect the needs of regional electorates, outside of metropolitan cities, at their own peril," he warned.

Fr Norden argued that General Practitioners should spend more time with socially and economically disadvantaged patients because they generally exhibit more complex health needs.

"This study clearly shows that the time of General Practitioners is being directed towards the middle income families and this is a sign of neglect of those in greatest need," he said.

The report - titled Unequal in Health - was written by Professor Tony Vinson of the University of NSW. Professor Vinson previously identified the danger of entrenched poverty in another study for the Jesuit Policy Unit.

Catholic Health Australia, the peak body representing the Church's health and aged care organisations, backed the findings of the Jesuit report and urged the next government to act.

CHA Chief Executive Officer Francis Sullivan said: "This report confirms our view that the next term of government must concentrate on making the promises of Medicare more available to all Australians."

Unequal in Health (PDF download)

Jesuit Social Services/CHA