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Thursday, 21 August 2003
Page: 19250


Ms GAMBARO (4:44 PM) —This week I received a letter from Dr Steve Hambleton of the Australian Medical Association Queensland Council of General Practice which raised some rather alarming concerns. I will read parts of the letter. It said:

I am the Chair of the ... Australian Medical Association Queensland Council of General Practice ... and it has been raised by a number of members ... The issue ... of blatant `cost shifting' where state hospitals manipulate public patients and their Doctors in order to gain additional funding thr-ough the federal system rather than that of state.

Currently our members are deeply concerned by requests from the Royal Women's Hospital at Herston requesting that GP's request the screening Ultrasound Scans for their share care patients as well as the early “morphology” scans to detect foetal abnormalities.

The request forms are posted out or given to the patient for endorsement by the GP. The cost becomes a federal “Medicare” issue rather than a State Health issue.

Further to the above GP's are being asked to request tests outside of their expertise. When they receive the results many do not understand their implications. Medicolegally whose responsibility is it to follow up on an abnormal result? Will the hospital indemnify GP's for their errors and omissions in relation to these tests? I think not. Will the State Government contribute to the increased indemnity costs that requesting these test will not doubt bring? I think not.

The test will then appear on the GP's HIC profile costing the Federal Purse more money.

We recommend that you take this issue up at a Federal level with the Minister to safeguard our GP's and to prevent cost shifting.

It is signed `Dr Hambleton'. This is another appalling case of cost shifting. This week I was also written to by the Queensland state Premier, Mr Beattie, asking that I, as a Queenslander, put my allegiance to Queensland above my allegiance to the Liberal-National Party and help persuade the federal government to increase, in line with the CPI, the level of funding that was agreed to be right and proper five years ago. All I have to say to Mr Beattie is that the Commonwealth is offering Queensland $8 billion over five years for Queensland public hospitals. He should take that money before 31 August, and some of those blatant examples of cost shifting, such as I have just outlined, that keep going on in the Queensland state hospital system might stop.

This is $2.1 billion more than they received under the previous health care agreements. It is not a cut in funding, as Mr Beattie states. How can a $2.1 billion increase be a cut? The offer has been with Queensland since April. They have not signed, and they continue to grandstand on this issue. All that the Queensland government need to do is to commit, as the federal government has done. They need to tell the Queensland public how much they are going to spend on public hospitals, they need to match the Commonwealth's rate of growth and they need to commit to spending the money on public hospitals—which is not much of an ask. Under the last health care agreements, Queensland received $5.9 billion for public hospitals from the federal government. This time, we are offering Queensland $8 billion in funding for these hospitals—$2.1 billion more than the funding provided under the last agreements. This is an increase by any stretch of the imagination and is 20 per cent over and above inflation.

Yet here we have Premier Beattie trying to argue that a $2.1 billion increase in funding is a cut. It is absolutely incredible. The forward estimates of the Commonwealth funding to which Premier Beattie refers in the letter which I have just read from makes no allowance for the fact that the load has been taken off public hospitals by the sharp increase in private hospital admissions and by demographic changes. Clearly, many more people have been having operations in private hospitals. So his cries about there being $160 million less funding conveniently ignore the fact that Queensland has benefited by more than $400 million from the Commonwealth's decision not to enforce the provisions in the latest health care agreements which centre on those private health insurance participation rates. Instead of wasting Queenslanders' time by trying to tell them that an extra $2.1 billion is a cut, Mr Beattie should really be telling them exactly what funding he is going to be giving to Queensland public hospitals for the next five years, and he should be matching the rate of growth that the Commonwealth is giving. I ask Mr Beattie, for the sake of all Queenslanders, to match that growth and to do what the Commonwealth has been doing. (Time expired)