Significant progress has been made towards ensuring Norfolk Island residents have access to safe and sustainable healthcare services. This is an ongoing process and I would like to provide an update to the community on these important services.
The Norfolk Island Health and Residential Aged Care Service (NIHRACS) was established as a multipurpose service providing acute care including emergency services, residential aged care, as well as primary and community care services. There are a number of specialists that currently visit NIHRACS including a Psychiatrist, Orthopaedic surgeon, Endocrinologist, Orthodontist, Urologist, Geriatrician, and Sonographer. Additional positions including a Social Worker and Diversional Therapist have been employed to strengthen the care available to Norfolk Island patients and aged care residents.
NIHRACS is working very closely with South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD) to assess which specialist services can be safely delivered on Norfolk Island in the future. One example of this is a recently prepared Scoping Paper proposing a sustainable ophthalmology model for Norfolk Island residents with a plan underway for an Ophthalmology Consultant to visit Norfolk Island on an ongoing basis.
Over $2 million has been invested to upgrade the health service facilities on Norfolk Island. Upgrades have delivered more reliable power and water supply, improved disability access and addressed work health and safety concerns which will help facilitate additional services on Norfolk Island.
Norfolk Island is not alone in facing challenges with the delivery of modern health services and many remote locations rely on medical evacuations. Medical evacuations and health services on Norfolk Island are funded by the Australian Government. From July to December 2017, there were 21 medical evacuations with 23 patients taken to the mainland for emergency medical services.
The introduction of the Norfolk Island Patients" Travel Accommodation and Assistance Scheme (NIPTAAS) ensures Norfolk Island residents can travel to the mainland to access specialist medical or surgical treatment. NIPTAAS will cover the cost of the flight to the mainland to see a specialist and provides subsidies for accommodation and travel while seeking medical treatment. Further information on NIPTAAS is available at NIHRACS.
Many more Norfolk Islanders are accessing health services and essential medicines than under the previous arrangements. Like other Australians, Norfolk Islanders now have access to Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme. A sustained and significant increase in residents utilising the services of NIHRACS and accessing the benefits of the NIPTAAS scheme has been apparent since 1 July 2016. I acknowledge and thank the dedicated staff of NIRHACS for the high quality service they continue to provide to the Norfolk Island community along with all visiting specialists.
I encourage anyone with concerns on the progress of the reforms to please contact my office.