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Health services for rural families

3-minute read

People living in regional, rural and remote areas may find it harder to access some health services. This article outlines what services are available.

Remote health services

The Rural Health Outreach Fund assists rural Australians to access medical specialists, GPs, and allied and other health providers through different outreach services.

Many families living remotely rely on services like the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) for general or emergency medical care. RFDS provides radio or phone consultation services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to patients in the outback, their families and healthcare workers in remote areas. They also provide fly-in fly-out GP and nurse clinics, mobile dental services, patient transfers, and mental health services in some states.


Larger regional centres may have a tertiary or base hospital whereas smaller towns might have a district hospital run by regional or locum doctors. Some smaller communities without a hospital have a multipurpose health service or medical centre. Patients in more remote areas who need specialist care may be transported to a larger centre.

Find your nearest health service by searching the National Health Services Directory.

Care during pregnancy and childbirth

During early pregnancy, your doctor plays an important role in performing antenatal maternal health checks and arranging tests.

Later in pregnancy, you can see a midwife, an obstetrician, or both. In the country, many doctors offer a shared care arrangement where they team up with an obstetrician or midwives to care for pregnant women.

Some doctors in rural areas are qualified in obstetrics and can deliver babies. Midwives also deliver babies, but they will call a GP qualified in obstetrics or specialist obstetrician if there are difficulties during childbirth.

You might have your baby in a hospital or a birthing centre. Some hospitals and midwives offer a home birth service for eligible women. Depending on how well your pregnancy is progressing, your options may change. Women with a higher-risk pregnancy may need to go to a hospital in a larger centre to give birth. Your health professional can advise you on the safest options for you.

Birthing on Country is a program that encourages health services to offer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women the chance to have a culturally appropriate birth. Ask your local midwife, Aboriginal health service, hospital, birthing centre or primary health network what is available where you live.

Outreach programs in some areas facilitate access to maternity and other specialised health care.


In remote areas, face-to-face access to health care resources can be difficult. Many doctors and health services offer phone or videoconference appointments. Accessing quality health care in the bush is getting easier with the use of technology. Medicare rebates are available for telehealth specialist consultations to rural, regional and remote patients.

See eHealth support for rural families for more information and links to resources.

Patient assisted travel scheme

Each state and territory has a Patient Assisted Travel Scheme (PATS). These schemes provide financial assistance for rural Australians to access specialist health care that requires travelling out of their area.

First aid

First aid saves lives. It is especially important to know first aid in the bush and other areas further away from medical assistance. You can access training through Royal Life Saving Australia, St John Ambulance Australia or the Australian Red Cross.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2021

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Need more information?

Rural and remote living

Find out what eHealth support, rural health services and other support services are available to you and your family living in the country and rural areas.

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Financial support for rural families

Many families with children and babies live in rural and remote areas. Find out what financial assistance is available to families in the country.

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eHealth support for rural families

Here is a trusted listing of health support resources available online, via video or by the telephone for children and families living in the country areas.

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The Royal Flying Doctor Service provides much needed oral health and dental care programs across Australia.

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The Royal Flying Doctor Service provides GP & Nurse clinics across rural and remote Australia to make primary health services available to the Outback

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Flying Doctor telehealth | Royal Flying Doctor Service

The Royal Flying Doctor Service provides thousands of people in the bush with telehealth services for primary health service provision.

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Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.