Rural and Remote Support
- Emergency assistance is available to you in rural and remote locations.
- Speak to your healthcare team about what ongoing care and support will look like for you living in a rural or remote location.
- Different rural health services are available nationally. Visit the Healthdirect website for more information specific to your state or territory.
- CCA offer free services to help you including a Service Locator, IBD Helplines, Support Groups and Connect with a Peer.
It can be challenging living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in rural and remote Australia, as health services are not as easily accessible as living in the city. This page aims to provide information on accessing services if you live in a rural or remote area.
- Immediately call triple zero in a medical emergency (000).
- The Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS) provides 24-hour emergency support in many parts of rural and remote Australia.
- For psychological support, call Lifeline – 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800.
- For non-urgent medical assistance, call NURSE-ON-CALL – 1300 60 60 24.
Reducing barriers to accessing health services
Many factors can prevent you from accessing health care. Here are some tips you can use to advocate for your health care:
- have a Management Plan created with your healthcare professional team in the event of an emergency or when symptoms persist,
- speak to your healthcare team about what ongoing care and support will look like for you living in a rural or remote location,
- identify which health services are available via telehealth (see more below),
- plan telehealth or face-to-face appointments in advance with your GP or specialist to avoid long waiting lists,
- make sure you have enough medication, or a prescription ready to last until your next health service appointment,
- speak to your specialist about how you might be able to manage your IBD at home, or other ways to help reduce face-to-face visits to health services for treatment,
- group health tests and checks together (e.g. faecal calprotectin, endoscopies, blood tests, x-rays, vaccinations) to reduce visiting health services,
- research the cost of different health care services or private health insurers to find the right option for you,
- try not to let work or other life commitments get in the way of medical appointments, and
- look to help share the load with family and friends, as managing a chronic illness is not easy. Let them know what signs to look out for and how to help you. This may be attending appointments, picking up medication, or helping to implement your Management Plan.
Choice in treatment type
Advances in therapy mean that there are now different ways to receive your treatment. Some medications need to be given in hospital or a clinic, while others can be taken through oral medication or self-injection at home. You should discuss which treatments are suitable for you in your living situation with your gastroenterologist. Not all medication types are suitable for everyone, and it is essential that you and your gastroenterologist agree on the best treatment.
Are Telehealth services available?
If you live in a remote area, it might be hard to see your healthcare professional team face-to-face. You may be able to have a telehealth video consultation instead of traveling.
Ask your GP or specialist if they offer telehealth services. Please keep in mind you will still need to travel to your local clinic or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) clinic for any health tests, such as blood or stool tests, endoscopies and bowel imaging or scans.
Medicare may help pay for your telehealth appointment with some GPs or specialists. It is best to check with your healthcare professional whether your appointment can be covered and ask how much the appointment is likely to cost.
If your doctor bulk bills, you won’t need to pay anything. If they do not bulk bill, you will have to pay for the appointment. You will often be able to claim some of this money back from Medicare.
Learn more about financial assistance.
How can a Medicare mobile service centre help me?
Medicare mobile service centres travel to rural and remote areas and can help you with:
- Medicare claims,
- enrolling in Medicare,
- using Medicare online,
- using the Express Plus Medicare App, and
- checking your identity documents, for example, certifying a copy of your birth certificate.
You can see when the mobile service centre is visiting your area next.
How can Medicare agents and access points help me?
Medicare have agents and access points to help you in rural and remote areas with Medicare, Centrelink, and other government services.
Some ways agents and access points can help you, include:
- using computers and printers,
- accessing free Wi-Fi,
- scan, copy, print and upload documents,
- verify identity documents,
- set up and accessing digital services, and
- find online information.
Learn more about agents and access points.
Read more about Medicare services for rural and remote Australians.
IBD Service Locator
CCA has a Service Locator to help you find an IBD service closest to you.
You will find the contact details to health services, whether it is a public/private clinic, and if paediatric services are available.
You may find it useful to keep a list of contact details of your healthcare professional team that is easily accessible. You can record these details in your Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis Management Plan.
IBD telephone Helplines
For non-urgent help, information and guidance about your Crohn’s or colitis, CCA offers a free Helpline and NurseLine service.
What is Helpline?
The Helpline Coordinator is a knowledgeable peer (not a health professional) that can provide general information about a range of subjects including symptoms and diagnosis testing, treatment, difficulty coping and anxiety, employment or education, travel, and Government financial support services.
Call 1800 138 029 and press option 1 for Helpline.
What is NurseLine?
The IBD nurse is a nurse with specific training in IBD who can provide specialised information and guidance for people living with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. The IBD nurse can help you to understand your condition and how it is affecting you and can provide information, education, and guidance on a wide range of subjects.
The IBD nurse can also help you identify any issues you are experiencing with your condition, help you to build a personalised care plan based around those issues, and in some cases assist you to access services or resources that may address those issues.
The Crohn’s & Colitis NurseLine is available through phone appointment only. Book an appointment or call 1800 138 029 and press option 2.
State and territory rural health services
Different rural health services are available in different states and territories. These services may include:
- attending hospital and health services in the city,
- accessing mental health services,
- travelling to health services, and
- getting emergency assistance.
Visit the Healthdirect website for more information specific to your state or territory:
When travelling for appointments, it is important to plan ahead. You may need to:
- plan transport or accommodation,
- pack enough medications for the time you may be away,
- prepare food and water in advance,
- know where you can stop to use public toilets,
- have a record of your healthcare professional contacts easily accessible, and
- have personal identification and your Medicare card.
Is transport assistance available to me?
You may need to travel to get to a hospital or IBD service. There may be support services available to you, including:
- RFDS patient transfers,
- Angel Flight non-emergency flights,
- Patient Assisted Travel Schemes (see below),
- Travellers Aid support,
- When traveling to city hospitals with a child, organisations such as Ronald McDonald House might help with accommodation. They may also have a mobile healthcare program running near you.
It is important to check eligibility requirements. Support workers at hospitals can also be an important contact to receive helpful information about travel assistance and patient support.
You may be able to get subsidised transport services if you need to go to regular medical appointments. There are different travel services available nationally and it is best to check the information for your state:
- Australian Capital Territory – Interstate Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme
- New South Wales – Transport for Health
- Northern Territory – Patient Assisted Travel Scheme
- Queensland – Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme
- South Australia – Patient Assistance Transport Scheme
- Tasmania – Patient Travel Assistance Scheme
- Victoria – Victorian Patient Transport Assistance Scheme
- Western Australia – Patient Assisted Travel Scheme
Your health service may also have advice on how to get transport help.
The RFDS delivers primary healthcare and 24-hour emergency services for those that live in rural and remote Australia. The RFDS offer:
- emergency medical flights,
- GP, nurse, and allied health clinics,
- telehealth services,
- dental care, and
- patient transfers.
Find out more at the RFDS website.
The prevalence of mental health conditions in rural and remote locations is similar compared with major cities, however access to mental health services is substantially lower. However, many psychologists offer telehealth services instead of traveling to appointments.
If you have a mental health disorder, you can speak to your GP about receiving a Mental Health Treatment Plan. You will be entitled to Medicare rebates for up to ten psychological appointment services each year.
To access a psychologist with an interest in IBD, visit GutSmart Find a Healthcare Professional, or speak to your GP.
For more information, visit Psychological Health & IBD.
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
- Kids Help Line: 1800 551 800
- Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
Youth mental health support
- Children of parents with a Mental Illness
- Kids Matter
- Sane Australia
- Orygen Youth Health (Victoria only)
- Kids Help Line: 1800 551 800
- Department of Social Services
It can be helpful to have proactive discussions with friends, family, colleagues or teachers about your IBD so they can support you when are experiencing symptoms or have a “flare-up”. You can learn more about Communicating about my IBD.
CCA offers both face-to-face and online support groups across Australia. Meetings provide a safe and supportive environment where individuals impacted by IBD can express themselves openly and receive support and understanding from others with similar experiences.
CCA’s online support groups are available to all regional and rural people regardless of location. Go to Support Groups to find the next meeting suitable for you.
If you are looking for one-on-one support, you can access our Connect with a Peer service to have a confidential conversation with someone living with Crohn’s or colitis, or a carer of someone living with Crohn’s or colitis.