GENERAL practitioner visits are up in Mundaring, but so are the rates of avoidable deaths, says a new report into Western Australia’s health care industry.
The Curtin University report, To Health and Happiness: WA’s Healthcare Industry Future, examines the supply and demand for health care services
in WA and the workforce that delivers the services.
Report author Professor Alan Duncan said research found a link between increasing visits to general practitioners and decreasing instances of avoidable hospitalisations and deaths, showing universal access to GPs and mobile emergency telehealth services in the state could reduce hospitalisation rates.
However, for some areas, avoidable deaths remained alarmingly high and have been increasing despite an increase in GP attendance.
The district of the Shire of Mundaring made the list.
“Avoidable deaths are those that can be treated through preventable measures or treatment such as obesity, smoking, alcohol, drugs or diabetics,” Professor Duncan said.
“Generally speaking the rates have fallen across WA but in Mundaring the rates haven’t moved too much.
“Now it’s a question of why that is the case.”
Contributing factors could include the areas remoteness and the make-up of the population.
The research found the number of people with complex healthcare needs in residential aged care in WA increased from 12.7 per cent in 2008 to 51.8 per cent in 2017, but the number of staff qualified to deliver this care had not kept the same pace.
“Across the State, less than a half (45 per cent) of the number of full-time enrolled nurses that should be employed in aged care are actually working in the sector, yet personal care workers are outnumbering their place in the estimated required workforce by as much as 173 per cent,” Professor Duncan said.
The health care sector is ranked third in terms of its contribution to the WA economy, growing by 8.8 per cent from July 2017 to 2018.
It has also become the biggest industry employer numbering more than 170,000 workers, with four in five workers women.
“Given its size relative to other industry sectors in WA, this report confirms that the economic contribution from the health care sector has been a major factor in the State’s recent return to positive growth,” Professor Duncan said.
“The health care sector has now become a cornerstone of the economy, yet attention paid to the sector and the health and wellbeing of its own workforce may not be commensurate with its value.”
The research could help future efforts to bring Mundaring in line with the rest of the state.