Background:Inequalities in access to renal services and acute care for rural and remote populations in Australia have been described but not quantified.
Aim:To describe: the coverage of renal disease management services in rural and remote Australia; and the characteristics of patients who had an aeromedical retrieval for renal disease by Australia's Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS).
Methods:Data from the RFDS, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and Health Direct were used to estimate provision of renal disease management services by geographic area. RFDS patient diagnostic data were prospectively collected from 2014 to 2018.
Results:Many rural and remote areas have limited access to regular renal disease management services. Most RFDS retrievals for renal disease are from regions without such services. The RFDS conducted 1636 aeromedical retrievals for renal disease, which represented 1.6% of all retrievals. Among retrieved patients, there was a higher proportion of men than women (54.6% vs 45.4%, P < 0.01), while indigenous patients (n = 546, 33.4%) were significantly younger than non-indigenous patients (40.9 vs 58.5, P < 0.01). There were significant differences in underlying diagnoses triggering retrievals between genders, with males being more likely than females to be transferred with acute renal failure, calculus of the kidney and ureter, renal colic, obstructive uropathy, and kidney failure (all P < 0.01). Conversely, females were more likely to have chronic kidney disease, disorders of the urinary system, acute nephritic syndrome, tubulo-interstitial nephritis, and nephrotic syndrome (all P < 0.01).
Conclusion:Aeromedical retrievals for acute care were from rural areas without regular access to renal disease prevention or management services.