Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Health services for rural families

9-minute read

If you think you need an ambulance or your injury or illness is critical or life threatening, call triple zero (000).

Key facts

  • People living in regional, rural and remote areas may find it harder to access some health services.
  • Telehealth services may be available so people living in rural and remote areas don’t always have to travel to access health services.
  • This article outlines health services for people living in rural and remote areas.

Remote health services

The Rural Health Outreach Fund helps rural Australians access medical specialists, GPs, 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. The RFDS provides radio or phone consultation services. This is available 24/7 to patients in remote areas, their families and healthcare workers.

They also provide:

  • fly-in fly-out GP and nurse clinics
  • mobile dental services
  • patient transfers
  • mental health services in some states


Larger regional areas may have a tertiary or base hospital. Smaller towns might have a district hospital run by local or visiting 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 need to travel to a larger town or city to access the right health services.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Care during pregnancy and childbirth

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

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

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. Depending on how your pregnancy is progressing, your options may change. If you have a higher-risk pregnancy you may need to go to a hospital in a larger town or city to give birth. Your health professional can guide you on the safest options for you.

Birthing on Country is a program promoting culturally appropriate childbirth options for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 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 can help you to access maternity and other specialised health care.

Mental health

Mental health issues are common, whether you live in the city or the country. It can sometimes be harder to find help in the bush.

There are many ways you can get information or counselling by phone or online, anywhere in Australia:

  • Beyond Blue — 1300 22 4636 for telephone and online counselling across Australia.
  • headspace — 1800 650 890 for phone and online counselling for young people aged 12-25.
  • Kids Helpline — 1800 55 1800 for free 24/7 online and phone counselling services for young people aged 5-25.
  • The National Rural Health Alliance provides fact sheets for a range of services that are available in rural communities, including help for specific groups such as:
    • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people
    • carers
    • culturally and linguistically diverse communities
    • defence force and veterans
    • diverse sex, genders and sexualities
    • farmers

For access to crisis support and suicide prevention services call Lifeline on 13 11 14, available 24 hours a day / 7 days a week.


In remote areas, face-to-face access to health care resources can be difficult. Accessing quality health care in the bush is getting easier with the use of technology.

Telehealth means you have a virtual consultation with a doctor. It usually takes place by videoconferencing. It is a secure and private conversation, just like seeing your doctor in person.

Medicare rebates are available for rural, regional and remote patients:

To qualify for these rebates, you and your specialist must be at least 15km apart.

You can also use the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby's video call service to speak face-to-face with a maternal child health nurse. Video call is a free service and is available from 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week (including public holidays).

After hours medical advice

Depending on your location, after-hours health services may be available if you need healthcare outside of the normal operating hours of your regular general practice.

After-hours health services are for people who need medical assistance but don’t need a hospital emergency department.

If you have a health concern and you’re not sure what to do, you can phone healthdirect on 1800 022 222 at any time to speak to a registered nurse (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). You can get health advice 24 hours a day.

Depending on the problem, you may be advised how to manage your symptoms until you can see your usual doctor or to go to your nearest health service.

Patient assisted travel scheme

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

Rebates enable your doctor, nurse or Aboriginal health worker to join you during appointments.

eHealth record

My Health Record is a secure online summary of your health information. My Health Record assists communication between hospitals, specialists, doctors and other health services, to improve medical care.

First aid

First aid saves lives. It is especially important to know first aid in the bush and other areas further away from medical services. You can do training through:

Resources and support

For more information about accessing healthcare (including mental health care) in rural and remote areas see:

For more information about telehealth services covered by Medicare visit Service Australia’s MBS and telehealth.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

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

Last reviewed: September 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

Family payments and support | Parents and families | Queensland Government

Financial support for families, including the Baby Bonus, Parental Leave Pay, Family Tax Benefit, childcare assistance and help with medical costs.

Read more on Queensland Health website

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.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Financial support for rural families

Financial support is available if you live in rural or remote areas. Find out if you're eligible and how to access assistance in the country.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Rural issues - coping with stress - Better Health Channel

The effort of trying to provide for the family and keep the farm going can be intensely stressful.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Parenting in the country

Read to learn more about support networks and healthcare services parents can access in rural areas, and tips on keeping kids safe.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Telehealth by RFDSWA | Royal Flying Doctor Service

our telehealth services span across the 2.5million kilometres of Western Australia

Read more on Royal Flying Doctor Service website

Flying Doctor Mental Health programs | Royal Flying Doctor Service

The Royal Flying Doctor Service provides Mental Health programs and services to those living in rural and remote Australia.

Read more on Royal Flying Doctor Service website

Flying Doctor dental programs | Royal Flying Doctor Service

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

Read more on Royal Flying Doctor Service website

Flying Doctor clinics | Royal Flying Doctor Service

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

Read more on Royal Flying Doctor Service website

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.

Read more on Royal Flying Doctor Service website

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.