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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 6205

Ms ROXON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (5:59 PM) —I thank the member for Blair for that question. He is right that his very fast-growing part of the country is one of the areas where you feel the shortage of doctors most acutely, as well as rural and remote communities. Those suburban corridors where infrastructure and services do not necessarily keep up with growth in population are very important. We made a commitment in the last election to a GP superclinic in the area to help relieve pressure from a very busy emergency department and also to provide more services to the community. The consultation and tender process has been completed. I understand that very shortly an announcement will be made for the preferred tenderer, so I think a contract is only days away from being signed and we look forward to being able to make that announcement with you. I know there was extraordinary interest in this in the community in Ipswich, with a large number of bids. I think that is an indication that there is a very active GP community but one that is ready to expand and which sees this as an opportunity to be able to perhaps provide some better training facilities for new, young graduates. Something that is obviously part of our key strategy behind the GP superclinics is how we use them to attract new graduates to areas of need.

That goes to the other question that was particularly raised. We have removed the cap that was in place, instituted by the previous government, that did not allow more than 600 graduates to train as GPs each year. When we have this incredible shortage across the country we know that we need to change that. We have a new and increased number of graduates coming online in the coming years, and we need to make sure that it is attractive for them to go into primary care plus into regions where there are shortages. We have made the investments, which means there will be a 35 per cent increase in those GP training places in the coming years. I think that is going to be something that the community will welcome. We know that people become anxious if they cannot access doctors’ services, and one of the key ways for us to ensure that they can is to make sure that we train more doctors. I think increasingly being able to train more people in primary care settings is going to be a valuable part of what we do.

I thought also that because the member is from Queensland he might particularly be interested that one of the components of the COAG agreement which is funded in this budget is investment in our emergency departments across the country. One hundred and forty-six million dollars is going to Queensland to invest in emergency departments across the state. This is something which is helping our communities by making sure that we have both the primary care services funded through our GP superclinics and other strategies as well as our hospital services well resourced. I am sure that will be something that the member will watch closely, having been an active advocate in arguing for the superclinics. I look forward to shortly being able to make those announcements in his electorate.