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Tuesday, 7 October 2003
Page: 20629

Mrs CROSIO (2:58 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Health and Ageing. My doctor in Smithfield, who bulk-bills and who has worked in the area for over 20 years, is now seriously contemplating closing the doors of his practice because of the Howard government's mishandling of the medical indemnity crisis. What does the minister suggest I tell my constituents, many of whom are aged and rely solely on this bulk-billing GP service, regarding this possible decline in their medical services? Minister, why has the government not acted sooner?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Health and Ageing) —I certainly do accept the member for Prospect's imputation or point that a lot of doctors late last week were very angry, and they were citing the IBNR levy as a reason for potentially withdrawing services from Sydney hospitals. This government did not sit on its hands; this government acted swiftly. We put an 18-month moratorium in place on all IBNR levies over $1,000, so any doctor who is thinking of resigning or retiring because of the IBNR levy now has no reason to do so. I would call on the doctors of Western Sydney to continue to work with this government, to continue to work with the state government—which has responsibility for public hospitals—to try to ensure that all Australians continue to have access to high-quality affordable health care.