Accessibility of speech pathology services in non-metropolitan New South Wales and Victoria

Linda Wilson1, Michelle Smith-Tamaray2

1School of Community Health, Charles Sturt University, P.O. Box 789, Albury, 2640, liwilson@csu.edu.au
2School of Community Health, Charles Sturt University, P.O. Box 789, Albury, 2640, mchsmith@csu.edu.au

Background

Some years ago, we presented a paper at a SARRAH conference outlining a methodology for investigating the geographic accessibility of speech pathology services in non-metropolitan New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria. This presentation will consist of a summary of data obtained via this methodology, and a demonstration of how the different types of data can be used to document a range of accessibility issues.

Method

A custom-designed telephone survey was conducted with representatives of speech pathology departments within public health facilities across rural NSW and Victoria. Representatives were asked questions about the area serviced by their department, locations and frequency of services, client eligibility criteria, staffing numbers (etc.). Data were analysed for different client groups, such as preschool children and adult outpatients, via mapping processes, simple statistics, and thematic analysis of qualitative data.

Results

While clients living in some areas of non-metropolitan NSW and Victoria were provided with geographically accessible speech pathology services, clients in other areas were not. In addition, some areas that were provided with services received those services less frequently than would be required to properly manage common speech pathology conditions. Maps and other data will be used to illustrate these and other results.

Discussion

This research was the first attempt to document the accessibility of speech pathology services in Australia. The data obtained are very powerful, and can be used for advocacy and for planning for improved accessibility of existing services. A similar methodology could be used to document the accessibility of other allied health services in rural areas.

Biography

Linda Wilson is a lecturer in speech pathology at Charles Sturt University, who has conducted research into telehealth delivery of speech pathology services. She has also worked with colleagues and research higher degree students to research the accessibility of speech pathology services in rural areas. Most recently, she has developed a Masters-level subject in which students engage with concepts related to geographic, institutional and cultural accessibility, in order to better understand how practice decisions can affect clients’ abilities to access services.