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AUSTRALIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (WA)
The Fly-In, Fly-Out Federal Parliamentary Inquiry should seriously consider how mining companies can make a special contribution to health services in rural and remote areas, the AMA (WA) said today.
AMA (WA) President Associate Professor David Mountain said a recently completed survey of WA medical professionals showed that more than 80 per cent believed those responsible for FIFO, both governments and companies, should support and improve health services.
“FIFO is a reality that is here to stay. However, with the number of FIFO workers continuing to increase strongly, the impacts they are having on health services across the state are enormous. These impacts are felt most severely by smaller remote towns and communities that already struggle to provide and maintain health and other services,” A/Prof Mountain said.
More than 80 per cent of doctors surveyed agreed that mining companies should contribute more to health services in local communities either directly or indirectly by increased funding or taxes.
Many however, believed the companies had already contributed to government coffers and the State government needed to prioritise direct support and infrastructure to these hard pressed communities.
Presenting his submission to the Federal Parliamentary Inquiry visiting Perth today, A/Prof Mountain detailed the results of the survey, which also reported mental health issues as the most commonly seen by doctors when treating FIFO workers, as well as major relationship strains, drug and alcohol abuse and other lifestyle issues.
Other medical issues affecting FIFO workers included:
Another interesting phenomenon noted by doctors was the high rate of induced births to fit in with mineworker’s schedules.
In addition, FIFO workers wives, children and sometimes older fragile parents were suffering from the disconnectedness, relationship strains and lack of availability of their loved ones. Many were also suffering increased levels of stress, mental illness and substance abuse, behavioural problems in children and loss of support for elderly parents.
Other major issues raised by medical professionals included the costs of hiring medical and practice staff in regional areas servicing mining companies, extreme rents and poor living conditions for their staff or themselves.
A/Prof Mountain warned the Committee against being swayed by arguments from the powerful mining lobby that they already contributed too heavily to all services by way of taxes paid to state and federal governments.
“Most large productive mines were making huge profits for both the miners and State and Federal governments. If State governments feel they have already raise enough funding from the miners it is essential that they urgently direct funding, services and staff to those areas which are bearing the brunt of the FIFO migration.
“We realise that mining companies, like all good corporate citizens, already contribute strongly to government coffers. However their impact, according to the survey, in the health sector has been enormous,” he said.
“On this basis we have to see a greater contribution by mining companies and a greater effort by State governments to look after the longstanding communities that provide the essential services these projects are relying on,” A/Prof Mountain said.
“They cannot be allowed to continually impact on communities without a significantly higher contribution.”
A/Prof Mountain will also tell the Committee it is essential that both the companies and governments put money into researching what are effective remedies for the well known issues relating to FIFO workers and their effects on communities.
“It is a disgrace that independent research is almost non-existent after 15-20 years of rapidly increasing FIFO work. It is both sensible and vital that industry, for a productive, healthy workforce and the State for good policy and good societal outcomes, research the effects of FIFO work and effective strategies that will improve the direct health of FIFOs and their families as well as the communities that support them,” A/Prof Mountain said.
THE AMA WILL PRESENT TO THE FIFO COMMITTEE HEARING AT 8.30AM TODAY, 11 HARVEST TERRACE, PERTH (2ND FLOOR)