Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 9 Hansard (19 August) . . Page.. 3213..
MR BARR (continuing):
The department would seek to engage with all of the stakeholders, everyone who has been involved through each of those school communities, in relation to the redevelopment proposals. If Dr Foskey has a specific issue that she would like to bring to my attention, I would welcome that, but I am not aware of any group that has not been consulted in relation to the redevelopments on the sites. It has been a very public process, the subject of many questions in this place and elsewhere.
MRS BURKE: My question is to the Minister for Health regarding GP clinics. Minister, on 13 May 2007 you said that more effort was needed to improve the ACT's bulk-billing rates and I quote:
... we're way below and we should be treated with a separate solution to our individual or unique needs.
Since this statement the community has lost another GP clinic whilst you have said there is nothing you can do. Minister, isn't it true that your record is one of fewer GPs and fewer suburban services over the last seven years?
MS GALLAGHER: I thank Mrs Burke for the question and the opportunity to talk again about the issues of GPs and bulk-billing rates. You need to understand how the primary health care system works and that most GPs in the ACT make their own individual decisions around bulk-billing. Most of them in the ACT do not bulk-bill and usually that is for the reason of the profitability of their business—the need to employ additional staff, such as practice nurses who are doing a lot of work in the practices now. If you ask any GP and the Division of General Practitioners—which obviously I know none of you have, in coming up with your incredibly flawed policies—you will find that GPs bulk-bill where they can but, in order to keep their business going and run their overheads, they need to operate their business at a profit.
We would like to see bulk-billing rates increase. We have seen them increase in recent years. In fact, between 2005 and 2008—so your question is wrong, Mrs Burke, but you are used to that—bulk-billing rates have increased by 10 per cent. Do you know why that is? It is because Primary Health Care came to the ACT and opened their two clinics that you have been bagging publicly in the media for some time. The single biggest change that has occurred is that Dr Bateman has opened Ginninderra Medical Centre and Phillip Medical Centre. He has filled a gap in the primary health care sector in the ACT by doing that. He has extended hours. The difference is that he is operating an extended hours service, a bulk-billing service and several add-ons to the general practice regime. That is how he runs a profitable business, and 20 per cent of the ACT community have walked through his doors and benefited from bulk-billing rates. That is why he is an important player, or Primary Health Care is an important player, in the primary health care industry.
I spoke in my previous answer about all the initiatives that we have taken to support general practice, but there has to be an understanding from the opposition that general practice, the Medicare benefits schedule and bulk-billing are the responsibility of the