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Tuesday, 22 February 1977
Page: 264

Dr CASS (MARIBYRNONG, VICTORIA) -My question is directed to the Minister for Health. He will recall that recent Press statements have alleged that pathologists' incomes have more than doubled in a year because of kick-back payments to general practitioners which encouraged these doctors to overutilise pathology services at public expense. I ask the Minister: As these allegations are of a very serious nature and seem to involve millions of dollars of public funds, will he assure the House that the final report of the working party examining pathology services, due I trunk in December last, will be tabled in this House? Can he also assure the House that the second annual report of Medibank due to be tabled shortly will contain relevant information about doctors' incomes so that the Parliament and the public can assess the truth of these allegations?

Mr HUNT (GWYDIR, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Health) - The honourable member will recall that in April of last year the Government set up a working party under Dr Sax to inquire into some of the quite unsatisfactory practices in the pathology area. These practices have been going on for some years but certainly accelerated under the Medibank system. Dr Sax headed the committee consisting of representatives from the Royal College of Pathologists in Australia and the Society of Pathologists in Private Practice, plus a representative from the New South Wales Health Commission and representatives from the Department of Health. That committee made 2 short-term recommendations to the Government, the first being to amend the schedule of fees for benefits to become effective as from 1 October. The Government acted to implement that recommendation, and the new schedule of fees now applies. The committee also recommended that the Government should implement an approved provider scheme. Legislation will be introduced in this session so that this system will apply as from 1 July this year. So, I can give the honourable member the assurance that legislation will be introduced to overcome another problem that has become evident.

Also we are waiting on a further report from the pathology working party on the longer-term measures that the Government should consider to overcome the problem, and I will give consideration to the honourable gentleman s request in respect of the tabling of that report. After question time I will be tabling the report of the Health Insurance Commission for the last financial year. If there is any other information that the honourable gentleman may require about doctors' incomes on average and so oh, I hope to be in a position to provide that in the not too distant future.

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