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Wednesday, 3 December 2008
Page: 12438

Ms GEORGE (7:45 PM) —My community will be pleased to hear that the Rudd Labor government will deliver a massive $64.4 billion over the next five years to boost health and hospital funding and to drive reform through the recently negotiated national healthcare agreement. This is an increase of more than $20 billion on the last national agreement, under the Howard government. This funding does not come in the form of a blank cheque to the states. It will require stringent reporting indicators, including accounting for significant issues like hospital infection rates and avoidable deaths. As part of this package, an extra $4.8 billion will go to public hospitals. This includes an increase to base funding of $500 million and an annual indexation rate of 7.3 per cent. Compare that to the last agreement under the Howard government, which, as we know, cut $l billion from public hospital funding and only provided for an average indexation rate of 5.3 per cent. This clearly demonstrates our commitment to end the blame game and to help rebuild our public hospitals. It is a priority issue for our government. It will address many of the concerns about health matters that are regularly raised with me by constituents.

I am pleased also to read that the government will provide a one-off injection of $750 million in the 2008-09 financial year, which could support up to 1.9 million emergency department services. This comes on top of the additional funding of $43 million that we have outlaid to reduce elective surgery waiting lists and to provide new equipment and surgical instruments, which have already been delivered to the New South Wales government. On top of this finding, the one-off payment will provide additional funds that are necessary to support our local hospital emergency departments.

In the electorate of Throsby, delays are currently experienced in emergency departments, which are called on too often to provide primary care services as a result of local GP shortages. GP shortages are a key issue in my electorate, compromising the quality of health care. The Shellharbour local government area has for years been classified as a district of workforce shortage. The Howard government washed its hands of the problem. The Rudd Labor government, by contrast, in the lead-up to the election promised Shellharbour a GP superclinic to address the current shortages. I trust that it will not be long before the preferred tender is determined and we can get the ball rolling. This commitment by a federal Labor government stands in contrast to the neglect of doctor shortages and hospital pressure points that we saw under the former government. I place on record my appreciation of the efforts of the Minister for Health and Ageing in recognising and addressing this significant shortfall in GP availability in many of the local suburbs.

I am pleased also to tell our community that the Rudd Labor government are making the single biggest investment in the health workforce ever made by an Australian government. We will invest $1.l billion in training more doctors, more nurses and other health professionals, and already additional places have been allocated to our local university. The funding will support a massive expansion in undergraduate clinical training places in public hospitals and other health settings. As we know, in order to practise as doctors, medical graduates need to be trained in clinical settings. There is severe pressure currently on training places for medical graduates, and we have committed to increase both GP and specialist training opportunities. I understand that 75 additional GP places will be available in 2009. My expectation is that our region will see several additional GP registrar places over coming years, which would be most welcome.

After years of neglect under the previous government, the Rudd Labor government is committed to assisting in the rebuilding of our hospitals and tackling their key pressure points. We will train more doctors, nurses and health professions to make a sustainable workforce in the years ahead. As I said earlier, these investments do not come as a blank cheque. The states will need to accept responsibility for performance outcomes. In addition, we have set aside $5 billion in our new Health and Hospitals Fund, which we intend to use in the years ahead to invest in health infrastructure, hospitals, medical technologies and research facilities. I am very confident my constituents, when they come to an appreciation of the details of these commitments, will realise the importance that our government is placing on improving access to medical services. (Time expired)