Issues Relating to First World Rural Non Emergency Transportation Services: Australia and America

It is a well known fact in many first world countries, that residents in rural and remote areas experience poorer levels of medical care, and therefore generally have higher overall healthcare requirements, than those living in urban settings. This is said to be partly due to the multitude of barriers, which prevent rural dwellers from accessing required primary medical care.

According to Safaei (2011) the main obstructions inhibiting rural populations from accessing medical care are: the lack of medical institutions in the direct vicinity; the shortage, and/or sporadic distribution of qualified medical personnel; and the difficulty involved with securing any kind of reliable ongoing non-emergency medical transport.

The findings reported by Safaei (2011) are however, not new to governments, the medical community, or the general public in most countries, with first world nations such as Australia and America already attempting to solve the majority of the above mentioned issues via the implementation of various non emergency medical transportation services.

Issues Regarding the Provision of Rural Non Emergency Transportation Services

The implementation of non emergency transportation services in many first world rural and regional areas has met with a number of different obstacles, the most significant of which, is the cost of providing, and generally maintaining, such a service.

In many rural areas throughout Australia for example, the distances which have to be traveled in order to reach required medical care are enormous. This means that medically related trips become unaffordable for patients, as well as for governmental institutions that attempt to aid with covering the costs. As a consequence numerous small towns around Australia have little or no access to non-emergency medical transport, relying instead, upon emergency vehicles in non-emergency situations. This can leave the region with a dangerous shortage of emergency medical transportation in the event of an emergency.

Medicaid and Non Emergency Transportation Services

In America the issues faced by rural areas are much the same; however, the healthcare program Medicaid currently operates a state funded non-emergency medical transport scheme. This program is aimed at increasing rural dwellers access to medical care via the utilization of public and private non emergency transportation services. This scheme is unique, in that medical transportation brokers are employed by Medicaid to locate and organize the cheapest possible right-sized form of transport for patients. This may include options such as public transport or rideshares.

Even though America has a more established program in place than Australia, the United States is still facing a major healthcare crisis in rural areas, with over 50 percent of the rural population in America having little or no access to any form of non-emergency transportation. This is due to a number of different reasons, including the fact that a large number of Americans do not qualify for Medicaid membership, and consequently may not participate in the scheme.

In conclusion, it is obvious that the provision of non-emergency medical transportation services is currently a pressing issue in many first world countries, with no real comprehensive solution in sight. It seems that the American model of non-emergency transport which involves privatization of the industry, coupled with government backing for low income earners may however be a step in the right direction.