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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5199


Ms PLIBERSEK (SydneyMinister for Health) (13:18): I will start with the questions from the member for Boothby. He was asking about the Victorian advertising campaign. That is not actually in this budget, so he will need to find another opportunity to ask about that. The question seems to be: why would you have a Medicare campaign when people know about Medicare? As I said earlier to the member for Boothby, there are a range of new services that are being provided by Medicare that people need to know about. They are excellent new services. The expanded after-hours GP helpline is such a help, particularly to parents in the middle of the night.

Dr Southcott: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. They were two very simple questions, about information products and the date the campaign will finish—that is all we asked.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: You have made your point of order. I call the minister.

Ms PLIBERSEK: There is a range of information materials. They will tell people that the expanded after hours GP hotline means that, instead of leaving home in the middle of the night with a sick baby, when they are not sure whether it can wait till morning a worried parent can call the GP information hotline. It means that, for a frail older person who finds it hard to get to the doctor and wants a little advice, instead of leaving home in the middle of the night—

Dr Southcott: Madam Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order, on relevance. We want some detail about the information products and the date the communication campaign will conclude—very simple questions.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you, Member for Boothby. I call the minister.

Ms PLIBERSEK: So a frail older person who is sick and worried in the middle of the night and does not really want to go and wait six hours in the emergency department of the local hospital can call the GP helpline. They will know what the number is because they will have that information before them.

The other elements of this campaign will remind people that they can now get a personally controlled e-health record. They can take their health information anywhere with them, from doctor to doctor. If they change doctors, see a specialist or are travelling, they will be able to very easily access the information in their personally controlled e-health record. We already have close to one-quarter of a million people signed up for their personally controlled e-health records, but we know the people who would benefit most are people who see a number of doctors, who travel frequently or who see new doctors all the time, and of course young families with young children. That is why on the weekend we launched the baby BlueBook, the e-health app that connects children's information with their personally controlled e-health record.

The other element is letting people know about Medicare Locals. They are 61 local health organisations designed and launched by Labor across the country to ensure that local decisions about primary health care are made at a community level, gaps are identified at a local level and solutions are found at a local level to fill those gaps.

The member for Calwell asked about cancer care. I pay tribute to her long association with the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program in particular. I know she has an interest in cancer issues more generally, but the member for Calwell has been extraordinarily diligent in talking to her community, a very diverse community with a very large range of language groups, about the importance of bowel cancer screening. I am very pleased that we increased funding to the Bowel Cancer Screening Program this year as part of our $226 million cancer package in the budget. We also, of course, increased funding to breast cancer, both screening and care—for screening by expanding the target age range up to 74 years—with extra support for the McGrath Foundation breast care nurses.

In fact, the cancer package altogether has a range of things that I know the member for Calwell will be very interested in, including continuing funding for around 280 critically ill patients to be able to use the bone marrow transplant program in 2013-14 and new chemotherapy drugs. We are listing new drugs all the time—in fact, we have listed 32 new chemotherapy drugs for 15 different cancers since 2007 and we have put $30 million into this budget to make sure that patients continue to have access to those chemotherapy drugs. We are supporting CanTeen, a fantastic organisation that supports young people with cancer. It is hard enough being a teenager, but being a teenager and finding out you have leukaemia or some other type of cancer is extraordinarily difficult. CanTeen does great work and we are very pleased to support it.

I mentioned the McGrath Foundation earlier. Our increased funding will expand the number of funded nurses from 44 to 57. They are the ones that the government funds; obviously, the McGrath Foundation also do a fine job of fundraising themselves to support extra McGrath breast care nurses. We have $18½ million for the Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre's program, including new funding of $5.5 million for the Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre. When I say new I mean first-time funded; the other two centres had initial funding, their funding was coming to an end and we have refunded those two centres and funded an additional centre at the Kinghorn Cancer Centre in Sydney. We are continuing funding at the centre at Epworth Hospital in Melbourne and the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane.

There is also around $6 million—just under; $5.9 million—for improving treatment and outcomes for patients with lung cancer. Lung cancer is a very complex cancer to treat. It has, unfortunately, low survival rates. When measured against other cancers, we have rates that are too high in Australia. There is also $36½ million to continue the excellent work of the Victorian Cytology Service on cervical cancers and the research that goes with that.