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Thursday, 18 September 2003
Page: 20500

Mr CREAN (Leader of the Opposition) (2:00 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Does the Prime Minister agree with these recent remarks by his Minister for Health and Ageing:

The claim that emergency rooms are filled with non-emergency patients who cannot access GPs is wrong and has been rejected by doctors.

Does the Prime Minister agree with this? If this is the case, can the Prime Minister explain why someone in his office, when contacted by a mother who was unable to find a bulk-billing doctor for her three asthmatic children, advised her to go to the emergency department of her local hospital?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I have not seen the context of the minister's comments; but, generally speaking, I can say to the House that it is the view of sections of the medical profession—and, in fact, of a spokesman for a group of the medical profession concerned about intensive care in public hospitals—that that claim about it being filled is wrong. I do not know whether anybody contacted somebody in my office, but the two statements are not mutually exclusive.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER —The Prime Minister has the call.

Mr HOWARD —It is perfectly possible for an individual to use an emergency ward—

The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition is defying the chair!

Mr HOWARD —without those wards being filled to overflowing.