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Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Page: 7134

Ms PLIBERSEK (SydneyMinister for Health) (18:46): I thank the member for Corangamite for his question. He has certainly been a very keen advocate for his local community and it was a great pleasure to go with him to the Bellarine Community Health Centre and see the excellent work they do and to speak to their staff about the excellent service they provide. I also saw that the environment there is a little bit run-down. It is a longstanding community health service and this funding gives them the opportunity to improve their patient care by upgrading the physical infrastructure of the place. It is a great feeling to be able to support such a great service by helping them out with a little bit of funding for their physical infrastructure.

The Health and Hospitals Fund has been a terrific investment in health infrastructure around Australia. It has contributed to the building and rebuilding of valuable health facilities in capital cities, suburban areas, regional towns and remote locations right across Australia. This is $5 billion which is being put into health infrastructure; it is $5 billion supporting a huge range of different types of projects like the two that the member for Corangamite spoke about. I have had the enormous pleasure of looking at these facilities and projects from Aurukun on Cape York, to the bottom of Tasmania, over to South Australia and the west—

Mr Dutton: Where did the money come from, Minister?

Ms PLIBERSEK: The Health and Hospitals Fund has been a fantastic program.

Mr Dutton: Established by the coalition.

Ms PLIBERSEK: The coalition has taken responsibility for the Health and Hospitals Fund. There is $475 million in the most recent budget which is going into new and upgraded health facilities in regional Australia. The government is fully delivering on that $1.8 billion commitment that it made to have a regional priority round for the Health and Hospitals Fund. In the most recent budget there are 76 new projects for communities right across Australia, giving patients better access to hospital services in the bush. This infrastructure investment is giving us long-term improvement in health infrastructure as well as providing much needed local jobs during the building and construction phases of these projects.

The patients will benefit from these projects in communities right across Australia, including multipurpose services in regional centres like Broken Hill, Bundaberg, Griffith, Hillston, Kempsey, Lismore, Peak Hill and Warracknabeal. There are new and integrated upgraded facilities to support additional dental services, which I alluded to earlier, to benefit patients in areas like Cranbrook, Murray Bridge, Pilbara, Kimberley and Yamba. I went to the site of the new Yamba community health facility as well. There is fantastic local support for that. They have been campaigning and arguing for that for many years, and we were able to deliver it for the community of Yamba. There are services like the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, with additional funding for aircraft and patient transfer facilities, and mobile oral health facilities and staff accommodation.

One of the supports that this new infrastructure investment gives is the ability to house and train GPs, doctors, nurses and allied health professionals in areas like Broken Hill, Ulverstone and Katherine. We know that if people train in regional or remote locations, they are much more likely to go back and work there in years to come, or to go to communities like the one they trained in. If all of their training happens in the city locations, they are much more likely to end up practising in city locations. So that infrastructure investment is not just in the bricks and mortar for today but in our workforce of the future as well. We have improved accommodation for students and health professionals including locums in communities like Ballarat, South Gippsland, Halls Creek, Mount Isa, Thursday Island, Charleville and Bairnsdale.

The investment that we have made of $5 billion through the Health and Hospitals Fund has been phenomenally important and has included some very large hospital upgrade investments, like at Lismore in New South Wales, and it has been terrifically exciting to see the improvements in patient care. But those small community projects have also been important and very well received.