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Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Page: 910

Mr BYRNE (3:00 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Health and Ageing. How will Australians benefit from the introduction of Medicare locals and increased investment in primary healthcare services?

Ms ROXON (Minister for Health and Ageing) —I thank the member for Holt for this question, because he has been very interested in our investments in primary care in particular. Of course, as the Prime Minister has announced, new guidelines have been released today for the establishment of Medicare locals and an application process that I know, on this side of House, many local organisations will be interested in. But this is just another step along the way of the reform that we have been committed to since we were elected to government. We are investing more than $2 billion into primary care, into our GP superclinics, into training more GPs, into employing more practice nurses and into building and upgrading more clinics.

I suspect the member for Holt is particularly pleased to ask this question because he, amongst other members in this House, has already seen these results being delivered locally in his electorate. We announced $64.5 million of investments to upgrade existing GP clinics. Two hundred and forty grants across the country have been let, and these are grants of up to $500,000 to allow for the expansion of GP services, new training rooms or new equipment. For example, in the Cranbourne News the member for Holt is shown shaking hands with the GP Dr Alan Lim from First Health Medical Centre, which received $500,000. I have not seen or heard the member for Tangney talk about a report in the Canning Times, ‘Windfall for health care’. I know that the member for Corio was pleased to see ‘Doctor boost for Drysdale’, an announcement in his electorate. The member for Mallee would no doubt be pleased that the GP clinic in his electorate that has put in a funding proposal for half a million dollars has also been in negotiations. In Fremantle, there is the announcement ‘Federal windfall to boost health services’; I know the member for Fremantle would be very happy about that. The member for Blair, one of the members who have an operational GP superclinic providing services—in Ipswich—will also be pleased that in his electorate there are funds to boost other medical services. Of course, there is the member for Kingston. The list goes on.

The point is that, at the same time as we are investing in additional services for GP practices across the country, we are investing in rural health services and we are investing in Indigenous health services. Today we have taken the next step: investing in primary care to ensure that it can be properly coordinated so that the services of GPs and other health professionals can be wrapped around the needs of a patient rather than the patient being expected to run around for the needs of the health system. This is something which will deliver fundamental change and provide better services throughout the community.

I am very proud to have visited a GP practice here in Canberra. I know that the member for Canberra was pleased that we visited one of the very good health services here in Canberra and talked to Dr Annie Lim about her hopes and vision for being able to get more help. The words she said to the Prime Minister and me were very simple. She said: ‘As a GP I can do a lot, but I can’t do everything on my own. I have a great hope that this will make it easier to provide better services to my patients.’ I can tell Dr Lim, as well as every other doctor and nurse across the country who wants to work in primary care, that we are determined to invest more in getting early services online, better after-hours services, more GPs and all of the things that the Leader of Opposition said during the election that he would cut funding for. We are investing, we are delivering and the community is already starting to see it.