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Monday, 22 August 2011
Page: 8868


Mr LAMING (Bowman) (22:10): For three months, Australia's world-class health system refused to treat Della Johnson, a resident of my electorate, who suffers from the one-in-a-million vascular disease of the brain called moyamoya—not because the operation was unavailable in Queensland, not because treating surgeons did not know what to do, but simply because Della comes from a state that cannot treat moyamoya and there was no agreement between hospital regions as to who would foot the bill. It exposes in our wonderful health system the fact that we have eight jurisdictions and many more area health services, and are about to have a lot more under the fourth level of bureaucracy to be introduced by the Gillard government.

My concern is that none of these reforms address the issue of Della. Were she a resident of New South Wales she would now be cured and recovering, but instead she has just had her first operation, last week—her second one is scheduled for 24 August—for the simple reason that she lives in the wrong state and in the wrong postcode. It is time for COAG to consider these issues so that streamlined care for very rare surgery can be in the best hands in this nation. With a population of 20 million people we cannot always expect to have every single operation available in every jurisdiction. But patients should not be held, delayed and pawned between states and hospital services looking for the cheapest way to do an operation.

In Princess Alexandra Hospital last week it became obvious that an edict has been released by Queensland Health to cap the number of times that a patient can visit outpatients. It is of great concern to anyone working in the public system that it is not the most efficient thing to do to be sending sick patients back to get another referral from a GP before they can return to the public outpatients system.

The issue here is that people who have complex conditions such as diabetes and epilepsy, or who are struggling with heart disease, or who are road trauma victims with broken bones, can only visit an outpatients department twice before they have to go back and get more paperwork. This was an absolutely ridiculous proposition—that you would have to go back and sit and wait in a GP's office, hope for an appointment, pick up more paperwork and charge the Medicare system, only to go back and have your third appointment at outpatients.

Mr Speaker, you can understand as a diabetic that, if you need your diabetic appointment and then a podiatry appointment and then to see your dietician, to have to return to a GP is absolutely ridiculous and inefficient, and a dreadful waste and social cost. I am glad that that edict has been turned around, and I want a guarantee from the Queensland Minister for Health that that will occur and that doctors will decide how often they see patients and to whom they refer. If you want to get outpatients seeing more patients more effectively, then engage in a meaningful discussion about integrated and primary healthcare provision; do not just cap doctors and tell patients, 'Go back and pick up more paperwork before we will offer you any more treatment,' because that is an abuse of the Australian health care agreement which says that you cannot refuse to treat a public patient.

It is also of great concern to me that in Queensland, in my electorate of Bowman, the Eastern Busway, due for completion at the almost mind-twisting date of 2026, has now been further downgraded by the Bligh government from a project to a 'concept'. Anyone who lives in my commuter community of Redlands, where 3,600 people jump in vehicles and travel down one highway every morning of the working week, will be absolutely distraught that this is now not even going to happen by 2026. We are a nation looking for smart public health solutions, and the last thing we need is delays to really important infrastructure for no reason other than that the state government cannot manage money. They committed out to 2026. There was plenty of opportunity to reschedule this. There is plenty of opportunity to look at alternative busway proposals that do not involve kilometres of tunnel and which would be far more efficient and could be built in a shorter time frame. I just think it is ridiculous that the children of the current Treasurer will have graduated from school before they ever get to travel on a busway. I think it is ridiculous that a major part of south-eastern Brisbane does not have the benefit of a decent busway for little other reason, it appears, than the fact that Redlands is not a part of Brisbane and was not the beneficiary of some of the visionary work of Campbell Newman in building tunnels and major road infrastructure for our city at a time when state Labor was not.

My great concern for my 6,000 residents who live on North Stradbroke Island and on the southern bay islands is that all ferry and water-taxi travel will not be exempted from a carbon tax. Removing that 6.8c a litre excise on diesel will be a direct hit for people who have no other option than to use a water-taxi or a barge for their vehicle. You will understand, Mr Speaker, that you cannot drive off an island, so this is absolutely essential travel. It is public transport and commuting that should be supported in this country, and I urge the Prime Minister to consider an exemption for public transport.