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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Shadow Minister for Health: Parliament House, Canberra: 14 February 2005: Obstetrician shortage.



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JULIA GILLARD M.P. Shadow Minister for Health

MONDAY 8:00 AM 14 FEBRUARY 2005 ________________________________________________________

TRANSCRIPT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW : PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA _________________________________________________________________

ISSUE: OBSTETRICIAN SHORTAGE

JULIA GILLARD: A front page story in today’s Australian proves that Tony Abbott and the Howard Government have been politically fixing issues in health, but ignoring the real problem. Across Australia, rural and remote communities, we are desperately short of obstetricians and the obstetricians who are there are aging and no one is coming along to take their place. This is a workforce crisis that the Howard Government knew about at the time of the last election, but has chosen to do nothing about it. At the last election Labor committed to a 1.5 billion dollar package to increase the medical workforce, including doubling the amount of money for training of rural and regional specialists. We also committed to a national maternity policy so we could review the options women across Australia, including in rural and regional communities had, as to how they have their babies. Its time Minister Abbott picked up these Labor

recommendations. Minister Abbott was out thumping his chest on Friday about a tiny increase in bulk billing, today he should stop thumping his chest, stop looking at the political fixes in health and start addressing these real long term underlying problems that are jeopardising health services for the Australian community and particularly for people who live beyond the boundaries of our cities.

REPORTER: What are the consequences basically of the shortage and how bad can it get?

JULIA GILLARD: If you look at the data that is in today’s Australian, there are many country towns where the number of obstetricians is down to one or two or three, and the people providing this service are in their late forties or fifties. Now unless we grow and replace that medical workforce, women in those towns won’t be able to have their babies in their own community, they will be forced to travel hundreds, perhaps thousands of kilometres to access a hospital and a doctor where they can have their baby. That isn’t the way women want to have their baby and for many women it may not be safe to be forced to make such a big journey.

END