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Wednesday, 24 August 1994
Page: 226

Senator SANDY MACDONALD —My question is directed to Senator Crowley representing the Minister for Human Services and Health. Is the minister aware of the escalating costs of medical indemnity insurance which, for instance, in New South Wales requires a rural GP to pay around $5,000 this year to provide a full obstetrics service to country women? How can a GP be encouraged to take on the additional responsibility of obstetrics or orthopaedics when the indemnity insurance for these specialists is around $30,000 this year? Does the government propose to cap general damages in medical insurance claims to balance the need for proper compensation and the need for health costs to be contained to levels that the Australian community can afford?

Senator CROWLEY —That is a matter of very significant importance. I do not have a detailed response to that, but I certainly know that the price of medical indemnity insurance is rising. I certainly know that if we are trying to encourage general practitioners, and particularly rural general practitioners, to take up practices such as obstetrics—which is very much what we are doing through encouraging general practitioners and specialists to go into rural areas—and if the facts are as you say, they are running quite contrary to the intention in general practice. I will certainly raise that with the minister and see whether there is anything further I report back to the honourable senator.

Senator Gareth Evans —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.