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Thursday, 14 August 2003
Page: 18662

Mr HUNT (12:28 PM) —I rise to raise the issue of health and aged care within my electorate of Flinders and to report to the House and to the constituents of my electorate a number of very positive developments. There have been three principal challenges that the electorate of Flinders and those who live within its boundaries have faced in terms of health and aged care. Firstly, there has been the issue of ensuring that there are sufficient and adequate aged care placements; secondly, there has been the issue of ensuring that there is a sufficient number of doctors; and, thirdly, there has been the issue of ensuring that the payment systems or bulk-billing are addressed in such a way that the local electors and constituents can live their lives easily.

The first of those three issues is aged care. I am delighted to report to the House that Flinders now exceeds the national standards of an allocation of 100 beds for every 1,000 members of the population over the age of 75. That is an achievement which we have just reached as a result of a series of recent openings and promises of beds. In the last few months, we have had over 300 new beds open. In the town of Mount Martha, at the magnificent Sir James by the Bay facility, 140 aged care beds have just been opened. In Safety Beach, at the Mount Martha Valley Lodge, 65 new beds have been opened. As I stand here, 100 new beds are being opened in Somerville—a town which is desperately in need of the additional resources—at the Somercare Resort. In addition to that, a series of new beds have been promised—and I particularly thank the Minister for Ageing, Kevin Andrews, for these decisions—which will mean 140 new beds in and around Cranbourne, 45 new beds in Hastings, 40 new beds at Warley Hospital on Phillip Island and 30 new beds at Regis Grange in Rosebud. All of these have been addressed.

The next project is Koo Wee Rup. It is very important that the state government lifts its prohibition barrier on the Koo Wee Rup health centre being able to apply for full funding for aged care beds. Currently they cannot do this without the approval of the state. So far we have done fantastic work and I congratulate all of the health providers and aged care providers throughout the electorate. With Koo Wee Rup, the barrier is not at the Commonwealth end but at the state end. We know that the Commonwealth would be willing to assist and to help, but we do not have that assistance from the state at the moment. Despite that, it is a tremendously good news story on the health and aged care front.

The second issue is that the whole of the electorate was recently included in the Outer Metropolitan Doctors Scheme to attract doctors to the area. This is a tremendous step forward. A number of areas throughout Australia are included and I am delighted that the towns of Rosebud, Rye, Dromana, Sorrento and Mount Martha all now fall within the Outer Metropolitan Doctors Scheme. What is particularly significant is that this scheme has already attracted doctors to Somerville and Sorrento and now a new doctor is about to open a practice in Pearcedale. Pearcedale is a town which has not had a doctor over the past few years. This will be a tremendous practical, meaningful, real outcome for the people of Pearcedale. I was speaking at a conference recently about broader international affairs and someone asked me, `What is the thing you are happiest with in your first 18 months?' I said, `Playing a small role in helping to get a doctor into the town of Koo Wee Rup, because that's what it's all about in the end. That's what actually matters; that's the difference.' It is the same now with Pearcedale; I am delighted that through this Outer Metropolitan Doctors Scheme we will be getting a doctor for Pearcedale. That is something that will make a real and practical difference to the town.

The third issue relates to the question of payments. The new scheme introduced by the Commonwealth—A Fairer Medicare package—will mean something very simple that, in talking to the Rosebud pensioners, they understand. You walk in, you swipe the card, you pay any gap that you have to pay—whether it is $5 or $7; you do not pay the $25—then you are out of there and the problem is solved. I hope there will be bipartisan support for this initiative. In the meantime, until there is bipartisan support, we are also working hard with Kay Patterson's office to try and obtain a Medicare office or a Medicare service for the town of Rosebud which would serve Rosebud, Rye and Dromana. I am delighted to report all of these developments to the House.