Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 9 June 2022) . . Page.. 1941 ..
I understand the questions. I understand the line of questioning. I will get the information for the members, but I just make the observation that, as each question has gone by, it is veering more and more into a question of the minister making procurement decisions. That is not what happens, and you know that.
MR MILLIGAN: Did Minister Steel ask questions about whether mentoring, guidance and running workshops was value for money and worth the expenditure of $3.27 million?
MR BARR: I think from what the minister has already outlined and the correspondence that is publicly available, questions were asked—that is clear—and they have been outlined and tabled in this place.
DR PATERSON: My question is to the Minister for Health. What steps has the ACT government taken to plug the gap made by the former Liberal-Nationals government’s years of underinvestment in Medicare, making it harder and harder to see a GP?
MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Dr Paterson for her question. As members here know, the former federal Liberal government did spend a decade neglecting primary health care here in the ACT and around the country. Primary care is a key responsibility of the commonwealth government. They have policy and funding responsibility for primary care, including setting the rebate amount offered to patients for seeing a GP.
We know that the ACT has the lowest overall rates of bulk-billing GP services in Australia. These matters were made worse and harder for Canberrans by the former federal Liberal government freezing the indexation rate of Medicare items and making it harder for primary care to operate here in the ACT, particularly for bulk-billing practices, and then specifically targeting the ACT, cutting the bulk-billing incentive for those who need bulk-billing most, from 1 January 2020. Despite repeated representations, that was never reinstated.
As the federal Liberals continued to undermine primary health care, the ACT government stepped in to fill some of these gaps. Over the past decade the ACT government has provided $12 million in incentives to support the GP workforce; infrastructure funding through a competitive grants process; an intern placement program; scholarships; and services to assist GPs to attend housebound and aged-care patients. We have run a GP bulk-billing round, supporting capital works for primary care services here in the ACT, and we have delivered targeted, vital support for those who need it most, through specialised primary care services delivered by Directions, Companion House and Junction Youth Health Service.
The ACT government has not only stepped up and filled this gap left by a decade of neglect and cuts to Medicare from the federal Liberal government; we have built a network of five walk-in centres, providing free nurse-led health care as an alternative, for non-urgent injury and illness.