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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 5959

Ms GRIERSON (Newcastle) (16:27): I note the member for Ryan's acknowledgement of the work of women. I felt exhausted listening to it but it is very true that there is more to do. I wish to draw attention to primary health care—that is, medical care provided outside the hospital system—which is of course the front line of Australia's health system. If our primary health services are not working properly, then no other part of our health system will work properly. It is the part of the health system that Australians use most frequently. For example, more than four out of five Australians see a GP or other primary healthcare provider at least once a year. It is where good health care and good health policy should always begin. That is why improving primary health care in Australia is one of the highest priorities of the federal Labor government. It is also why I am delighted that a health service in my electorate, the Hunter Urban Division of General Practice—better known as GP Access—has been selected as one of Australia's first 15 Medicare Locals.

Medicare Locals will play a major role improving health services on the ground across Australia. They are selected from already high-performing divisions of general practice with a proven ability to deliver results for local patients. To quote Minister Roxon, effective primary health care means patients getting the services they need close to their homes—getting the right care at the right time. So it is absolutely no surprise that GP Access was among the first 15 selected in Australia for this groundbreaking initiative. GP Access already has a long and proud record of delivering innovative, high-quality and locally based health services to the people of Newcastle and the Hunter region. To date, its flagship has been its after-hours service, which provides comprehensive after-hours primary health services for patients in the Hunter region. The service was established in Maitland in 1999 but has since spread its wings with new clinics in Toronto, Belmont, John Hunter Hospital and Newcastle. I know from personal experience that it has provided invaluable support to countless families and individuals seeking urgent health assistance on weekends and evenings. In doing so, it has provided an alternative to hospital emergency wards and has taken a significant burden off the shoulders of hospitals in the Newcastle region.

GP Access performance statistics speak for themselves. From humble beginnings they now boast a workforce of around 240 GPs. Each year around 100,000 patients receive attention through their telephone advice line, and around 50,000 patients are cared for annually in one of their clinics. In total, GP Access manages the care of at least 10,000 patients who would otherwise be forced to seek assistance in hospital emergency departments. So it is true to say that GP Access has already been providing a model for the high-quality services that we expect our system of Medicare Locals to eventually deliver across the nation. In my electorate they are also involved in the e-record trial and I am confident that will provide effective solutions that will also be run out across the nation to improve access and portability of patient records.

I wish to thank the Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, for her work in pioneering the system of Medicare Locals and I acknowledge the work of GP Access CEO Dr Mark Foster; Ms Karen Howard, the chair; and the GP Access board as well as GP services and administrative staff for their enormous contribution to the health care of people in my electorate.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): In accordance with standing order 193 the time for members' constituency statements has concluded.