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Thursday, 12 August 2021
Page: 54

Regional Services: Health Care

Mr DRUM (NichollsChief Nationals Whip) (15:07): My question is to the Minister for Regional Health. Will the minister please update the House on the action the Morrison-Joyce government is taking to ensure that millions of Australians living in regional, rural and remote Australia have access to the high-quality medical workforce and the health services they require?

Dr GILLESPIE (LyneMinister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment and Minister for Regional Health) (15:07): I would like to thank the honourable member for his question and compliment him on his service to the good people of Nicholls. Not only has he delivered roads, bridges, railways and water infrastructure but he is delivering one of the new end-to-end rural medical schools, in Shepparton, and he was there at the forefront of the planning for that some years ago. When I first entered parliament in 2013 there were only 749 doctors around the country who were enrolled in the General Practice Training program. That has basically doubled to 1,427 in the last year. We have had a targeted rural health strategy to expand the number of medical, nursing, dental, pharmacy and allied health professionals working around the country, and we are delivering on that pathway and strategy. In the last two years there have been 700 additional general practitioners and 700 additional registered nurses delivered into regional, rural and remote areas. That was a $550 million plan. There was $123 million in the last budgetary cycle to expand training and workforce incentives. Workforce incentives, in a geographically based fashion, give a bulk-billing incentive; the more regional and remote you go, the greater the incentive. That was another $65 million in the last budget.

The Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training Program, which supports schools of rural health and rural medical schools, has now expanded to 21 sites. We have delivered 26 regional training hubs, with subsidies for 1,000 specialist training spots to increase the specialty training pipeline for regional Australia. We've supported the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine with a dedicated national rural generalist pathway. We have incentivised junior doctors to get out of hospitals early and experience general practice in regional Australia. In fact, 50 per cent of the general practice training places are now dedicated to being trained in regional and rural Australia. As well as this, there have been many reforms, like the telehealth initiative, which has been instrumental in keeping general practice, treatment and advice available to doctors to treat their patients by telehealth. We've expanded regional radiotherapy services around the country to break the tyranny of distance and make sure people get access to training. So across the board— (Time expired)