New National Rural Health Commissioner appointed

By Rodney Woods

Rural health advocate, medical practitioner and researcher, Associate Professor Ruth Stewart, has been named Australia's next National Rural Health Commissioner.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Federal Government was delighted to appoint Prof Stewart to this role.

“The office of the National Rural Health Commissioner has become an essential component of the Coalition Government's approach to improving rural health outcomes since its establishment back in 2017,” Mr Hunt said.

“One of the early priorities for the expanded office will be to support the government’s ongoing rural response to COVID-19 and to examine the impact on health workforce planning in regional, rural and remote communities.”

Federal Regional Health Minister Mark Coulton said Prof Stewart had a distinguished career in rural health, both as a practitioner and an academic, most recently working as an Associate Professor of Rural Medicine, Director of Rural Clinical Training and Support at James Cook University.

“Under Associate Professor Stewart's leadership, the office will take a broader approach to rural health, and will help deliver the government's key reforms and targeted rural health priorities to support practical change for communities,” Mr Coulton said.

“Prof Stewart will lead an expanded National Rural Health Commissioner office, which will now include non-statutory deputy commissioners, who will support the commissioner and provide expertise across a range of vital rural health disciplines such as nursing, allied health and indigenous health.”

Prof Stewart said it would be a great privilege to work with rural and remote communities to improve their health outcomes.

“I look forward to supporting Minister Hunt and Minister Coulton to set priorities and develop strategies to best serve rural and remote Australia,” she said.

“I will work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples across the nation to ensure that these policies are culturally safe and directed at closing the gap.

“This is an exciting challenge for my office to develop and promote innovative and integrated approaches to health care delivery in rural and remote areas.”

Prof Stewart takes over from inaugural National Rural Health Commissioner, Emeritus Professor Paul Worley, who served in the role from November 2017.