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Wednesday, 28 March 1973
Page: 770

Mr KEATING (BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is the Minister for Health aware of the widespread dissatisfaction of people who are unable to obtain adequate medical attention after hours? Does the Government have any plan to encourage general practitioners not to neglect their patients after business hours?

Dr EVERINGHAM (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Health) - My Department has no specific plans to overcome this problem. I know that the problem is widespread and growing, not only in this country but also, probably, world-wide. It is bound up, among other tilings, with the shortage of general practitioners and the mal-distribution of doctors generally. One of the solutions sought in some European countries has been to increase the incentives for doctors to take up general practice. For instance, Holland has made it mandatory for doctors not only to have more community medicine content in their undergraduate courses but also, before they are recognised to practise as general practitioners, for them to undertake 2 years' full time training in a position which is subject to supervision by qualified general practitioners. This course, I understand, has stemmed the flow out of general practice. There is now a relative rise in the proportion of doctors entering general practice.

My Department is looking at the possibility of encouraging medical schools which are making moves in this direction, of increasing the content of general practice in undergraduate courses and of making available Government sponsored community health centres staffed by salaried or fee-for-service doctors with ancillary workers and other team facilities to upgrade the standard of general practice. These centres would be used, among other things, for the training of undergraduates. I am also having discussions with the Post-graduate Federation in Medicine, the College of General Practitioners and other bodies concerned with post-graduate training in genera] practice so that we can upgrade the status and the standards in this field. Another solution is to improve domiciliary services in order to take the load off doctors in cases where a specific medical qualification is not necessary for home visits. There is a very great backlag in this country compared, for instance, with Britain in the provision of domiciliary nursing, which has been left virtually to voluntary organisations. This whole question will come within the sphere of interest of the Sax Committee, which has already made some preliminary investigations of health needs and priorities in this country.

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