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Call for boost to 'atrocious' Indigenous health funding

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 30 January 2005

A doctor who provides an Aboriginal medical service to thousands of people in northern New South Wales, says some Aboriginal communities remain in third-world conditions in Australia.

Dr Ray Jones, of the Grafton Aboriginal Medical Service, is among those backing the Australian Medical Association's (AMA) call for Indigenous health funding to be doubled to $400 million in the next federal Budget.

Federal Health Minister Tony Abbot says the AMA is asking for too much money.

But Dr Jones says it would be a moderate amount to address an atrocious situation.

"We have very few patients over the age of 65 in our clinic because Aboriginal people just don't live that long," he said.

"They're lucky to live into their 60s as a rule - it's 20 years less than the rest of the community and a totally unacceptable situation."

Dr Jones is the only Clarence Valley doctor providing a specialised service for an Indigenous community and that just a little increase would go a long way.

"We introduced a nutrition program where we just simply provided fresh fruit to the local school," he said.

"Within the first three months we found the ear infection rate dropped by 30 to 40 per cent and the skin infection rate dropped from about 40 or 50 per cent of the children down to zero.

"You can make a difference but you've got to be proactive and get into the prevention."

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