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Parliament House, Canberra: transcript of doorstop: medical indemnity insurance; UMP; surgeons; bulkbilling.



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T R A N S C R I P T

Stephen Smith MP Member for Perth Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP - PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA, 26TH AUGUST 2002

E & OE

Subjects: Medical Indemnity Insurance; UMP; Surgeons; Bulkbilling.

SMITH: Well, overnight we see the College of Surgeons drawing attention to the lack of confidence that they have in the Government’s actions on medical indemnity insurance. This goes to the heart of the problem.

There is a crisis of confidence in so far as the Government’s handling of this issue is concerned. That runs the risk of seeing withdrawal of service, a decline in service, and specialists and other practitioners withdrawing from their fields of practice.

The Government needs to urgently get behind uniform tort law reform. It needs to urgently get behind the formation of a national scheme for the most catastrophically injured. It needs to urgently get behind a program to reduce clinical risk and improve clinical outcomes. And it also needs to indicate that if the provisional liquidator for UMP is having trouble meeting his deadlines, it will extend the guarantee so far as UMP is concerned.

This is causing a workforce-planning crisis in Australia so far as the medical profession is concerned.

It is also, in my view, potentially the straw that will break the back so far as bulk billing is concerned. We have seen a dramatic decline of bulk billing so far as general practitioners are concerned and the on costs so far as medical indemnity insurance is concerned now runs the risk of medical indemnity being the straw that breaks the bulk billing back.

INTERVIEWER: So now the Government has been working on this. Are you just calling on them to step up their efforts?

SMITH: The history of the Government’s conduct on medical indemnity insurance has been stop start, to only react when they are in sight of a deadline. Their constant stop start approach to this matter has seen the profession, whether it is the surgeons or other specialists or whether it is general practitioners, being rocked by a lack of confidence.

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There has been no national drive as far as this issue is concerned.

The Commonwealth has essentially been sitting with its shoulder not on the wheel but sitting on its hands. It hasn’t been putting the effort in here that is required to address and solve a national crisis.

When have we seen the Minister for Health out there arguing for a national compensation scheme for the most catastrophically injured? When have we seen the Prime Minister arguing for national tort law reform? When have we seen the Minister for Health out there saying that one of the important aspects of this crisis is reducing clinical risks and improving clinical outcomes?

This has been a stop start approach by the Government. The Minister for Health has let the junior Assistant Treasurer have the running of the matter. It is not a priority so far as the Government is concerned. What we are now seeing is a crisis so far as confidence in the profession is concerned. Ultimately again, if the Government doesn’t act now, we will see another New Year’s Eve crisis if the provisional liquidator for UMP has difficulty making that deadline.

Ends

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