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Transcript of press conference: 13 July 2009: Strathpine GP super clinic; liberal razor gang; health and hospital reform commission report; diabetes.



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THE HON NICOLA ROXON MP

MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGEING

TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE - STRATHPINE GP SUPER CLINIC CONSTRUCTION SITE - 13 JULY 2009

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

Subject: Strathpine GP Super Clinic, Liberal Razor Gang, Health and Hospital Reform Commission report, Diabetes

NICOLA ROXON: It gives me great pleasure to be here to show people the commencement of construction for the $2.5 million GP super clinic here in Strathpine. Can I acknowledge a couple of the key players who are here today: of course, our traditional owners. Thank you for being here. Dr Evan Jones, who is the medical director the facility here, and runs a already sizeable medical practice on the Sunshine Coast.

FK Gardner and Sons, the builders who are here and represented in vast numbers. Obviously we very much depend on good construction work, good businesses, to be able to build these facilities in a timely way. And it's a great pleasure for me to be able to meet some of the people involved in delivering this infrastructure. Of course, GP Partners, as well, who are here. Thank you for coming to witness this.

It's really good to be here in suburban Strathpine to mark what is a important stage in the roll out of our GP super clinics across the country. During the election, we promised 31 super clinics, and we now have 21 contracts signed for those super clinics. You can see that construction is well under way here, and we hope that services will be provided in the middle of next year, from this super clinic facility.

But while we're getting on with the job of delivering these health services - and I've also been this morning up to Caboolture Hospital - we've made an announcement of more than $5 million going to the Caboolture Hospital to develop a paediatric short-stay unit to help take pressure off our emergency departments. While we're here, witnessing construction work for the GP super clinic in Strathpine, investing in emergency departments in Caboolture, the Liberal Party is meeting in down town Sydney to talk about the sort of funding that they will cut if they're elected to government.

Now the Liberal Party opposed the development of GP super clinics during the last election, and I would like to call on the Liberal Party today, when they have a razor gang meeting in Sydney, to commit to ongoing funding for these facilities.

We can see that this will deliver health benefits to the community, and we would like to be assured that the Liberal Party isn't intending to cut health funding now it has a razor gang in place, when in fact we can see infrastructure being developed across the country.

We are very proud that our $275 million is going to deliver GP super clinics to 32 locations across the country; and as I say, this one is being constructed by FK Gardner and Sons. I'm told that the construction of this clinic at its peak will provide for 90 jobs in the Strathpine region, and a further 40 during fit out, stimulating the local economy.

And of course, the super clinic then will employ in an ongoing way doctors, health professionals, receptionists, all much needed by the community for the services that are provided, but also for the employment that's provided.

Importantly, this clinic is going to provide that mix of medical and broader health professionals, nursing staff, working with GPs, and other allied health professionals like physiotherapists, podiatrists, diabetes educators, and dieticians. Some of you will have seen in the plan there is a small community library and community meeting place planned to be part of this super clinic structure.

Of course, the perfect environment if group classes or diabetes or other issues, might want to be run. It's timely, of course, when it's diabetes week this week to think about the sort of work that a clinic like this might be able to do in preventing such chronic diseases.

Importantly, this clinic is also going to provide education and training opportunities for the future health professionals and this is vital in communities that have been under serviced by medical and health staff to have a setting where you can potentially have enough space to train the health professionals of the next generation. Super Clinics Nominee was the successful tenderer, and is working in close collaboration with the Aboriginal and Islander Community Health Service of Brisbane to deliver services specific to the needs to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Strathpine, something that was identified as a high need during the local consultations.

Today, we've had the opportunity to inspect some of the work and the plans and we're very excited about the sorts of services that will be able to be delivered in the future when this super clinic is up and running - hopefully to be completed by early 2010.

This development, here in Strathpine, is just an example of many across the country, of the Rudd Government getting on with the job of investing in health services.

At the same time, unfortunately, we have the Liberal Party with the history of slashing money from public hospitals and health services, meeting, as a razor gang, to work out which projects they will stop funding.

And I call on the Liberal Party to commit to this GP super clinics program, and to commit that they won't take money out of public hospitals in the way they did when they were last in Government.

I am happy to answer any questions that people might have, and I know that Dr Evan Jones is happy to ask any specific questions that people might have about the development here and Strathpine. So over to you.

QUESTION: [Inaudible question]

ROXON: No, look, across the country, as I said, we've got 21 contracts signed. The work is at a different stage for all of those. Some are building a whole new facility like you see predominantly here. Others are renovating existing services. This one is certainly the most advanced, I would say, of the Queensland projects, but we do have services, for example, already being provided in Darwin. We have a facility ready to open in Victoria.

You're going to see a lot of activity in the coming months, because of course the

consultation period, the contractual arrangements, the tender arrangements in the contracts were our priority for the last 18 months.

You're going to see a lot of construction activity and services being delivered for the next 18 months.

QUESTION: [Inaudible question]

ROXON: There's a lot of construction work going on with a number of them. For example, in Cairns and Townsville I've signed the contracts for both of those. One of them, I think, was renovating an existing facility.

So we're not in competition; we're happy as soon as these services can open. But early 2010 is the anticipated timeframe for the Strathpine services, and that will be absolutely on target for what we had promised to commit and provide to this community here in Strathpine.

QUESTION: Will they be 24 hours a day?

ROXON: What we've said is that we certainly gave priority through the tender process to those who said that they, one, could prioritise a significant amount of bulk billing, two, could operate for extended hours. And of course, I don't know whether Dr Jones might want to make a comment. Running a facility on already slightly further north with 13 doctors and other allied health professionals, he has a lot of experience in how you get a team of professionals here working and able to provide that extended service.

It isn't an absolute requirement that all of them operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but we want to enhance the services that are currently being provided. And you see that with the particular focus on the Indigenous services. A gap was identified within the community.

QUESTION: How many…?

ROXON: There are nine in Queensland and we have Cairns, Townsville, Southside Ipswich, here obviously in Strathpine, Redcliffe, a range of facilities that we think will be able to deliver great services throughout Queensland. We're committed to 31 clinics. In fact, they will be delivering services in 32 communities. In Tasmania we have one facility that's going to be at two sites.

And so it's a really exciting development, an investment in primary care services in the community, that frontline care where we're trying to make sure people can get access to services easily, close to home, and hopefully take pressure off our hospitals as well where we know people present if they can't get GP services in a timely way.

QUESTION: Do you think spending on health like this, particularly GP clinics, will help [inaudible].

ROXON: Well, I think spending on health projects will help the community, and that's ultimately what it's about. This is about delivering better health services to our community.

I'm very fearful with the meeting in Sydney today for the Liberal Party's razor gang that they will identify health spending as an area that they will make cuts.

I'm concerned about this because, after having disinvested for so long while they were in government, we are trying to turn that around now, and in 18 months we have got runs on the board.

But I think the community here in Strathpine and elsewhere would want to know whether a Liberal government would continue with that investment or try to close down these projects.

QUESTION: [Inaudible question]

ROXON: Well, look, as you would be aware, the Government's just recently, just a little over a week ago, received three very important pieces of work that we've commissioned - the report from the Health Reform Commission, from the Prevention Taskforce, and developing a draft first time ever primary care strategy. Those recommendations of the reports are very extensive. We are going to take the time to consider them carefully.

But you should expect when they are released publicly that there will be debate, as we've said right from the beginning, about how we put more effort and energy into managing chronic disease and into preventative health measures, not just focusing on the acute end where people already present at hospitals unwell.

So that's been a major focus and drive from the Government. But of course, we will release those materials in due course and make further comments then.

QUESTION: [Inaudible question]

ROXON: Well, I think as we made clear when we were elected to government and made some very ambitious commitments to the Indigenous community and to the public that we wanted to close the gap in life expectancy, close the gap in educational attainment, close the gap in a vast range of social indicators, that we are determined to tackle these issues.

We've just recently announced $53 million investing in ear and eye health for Indigenous Australians. We know that if kids can't see or hear well, their chances of being able to do well at school are fundamentally affected, and that fundamentally affects their life chances.

We've got to turn this around. We're investing in Indigenous health in more than $1.6 billion to try to make sure that we can target the particular health needs of the community.

This is one component of it, making sure we've got frontline services in our communities where we know urban Indigenous people are living and don't always access services. But that can help.

But we have to have targeted programs like we've funded for ear and eye health, and certainly we'll keep working with our state and territory colleagues to make sure that those investments are turning into real outcomes for Indigenous people.

QUESTION: Do you think it's necessary to put tracking devices on medical staff [inaudible]…

ROXON: Look, that's not something that has been instigated by us or anything

that I have a briefing on. I would have thought that it's important for us to make sure that we are measuring outcomes for the community of the delivering of hospital services. And I for one think that our nurses and doctors and hospital staff work incredibly hard and they need our support and investment.

For the particular proposal, you'd need to ask the Victorian Health Minister.

QUESTION: You mentioned the Diabetes Taskforce.

ROXON: Well, diabetes is one of the fastest growing preventable diseases in Australia at the moment. Of course we have many young people with Type 1 diabetes, which is not preventable. But Type 2 diabetes is growing fast.

It's majorly affected and I think rightly described often as a lifestyle disease. We can improve our chances of not getting Type 2 diabetes by leading a healthier lifestyle. And I think Diabetes Week is a perfect opportunity to educate people further about living that healthy lifestyle - eating well, exercising regularly, making sure that we take care of our bodies because 10 and 20 and 30 years down the track, it'll be much harder to undo the damage.

So I want to congratulate Diabetes Australia. They do a great job on fairly scant resources, of making the community aware of the threats of diabetes. And we are trying to do our part in helping educate the community that preventable diseases are one of the fastest growing burdens on individuals, on families, and on our health system, and we need to start turning that around. ***ENDS***