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Thursday, 12 November 1959

Mr ALLAN FRASER (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Monaro) . - Mr. Chairman, this seems to be an appropriate clause on which to ask the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) to amplify the statements that he previously made to the House about the provision of drugs and medicines for those people whose condition of health requires a constant repeat supply of some particular therapeutic substance. Under this clause the prescribing of benefits by doctors is limited except in accordance with a determination to be made by the Minister. The clause sets out that unless otherwise determined by the Minister, the doctor may not direct that the supply of the pharmaceutical benefit be repeated on one or more occasions. The doctor has no power to direct a repeat except in accordance with a special determination by the Minister.

The Minister has assured us that he will act reasonably in this matter, but I suggest that the committee is entitled to more precise information from him. After all, this is a matter of the utmost seriousness to people such as those suffering from diabetes and from many other forms of illness where the maintenance of health depends on a regular supply of some drug or medicine. Surely the Minister is in a position to give the committee some general statement at least of the methods and principles under which he will apply himself in this matter and some specific assurance that poor people - pensioners and others - who do not receive medical entitlement cards will be enabled to obtain supplies covering a period of many months at least for the one payment of 5s. If the Minister is unable to give that assurance to the committee, or if in fact the act is to apply so as to compel people in those circumstances to pay 5s. every time or even every second time that they require a prescription to be dispensed, a very serious hardship indeed will be imposed. I ask the Minister to inform the House in more particular terms what safeguards will be provided to ensure that people who are suffering from a condition of health which requires a regular supply of drugs will be able to obtain at least several months' supply for the one fee of 5s. or else will be able to have repeat prescriptions without any further 5s. payment.

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