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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 27 October 2010) . . Page.. 5220 ..


tribute to people who should be named because of their sterling success. The pioneers of this organisation included Roger Nicoll, who is the inaugural chair of the cooperative, Michael Pilbrow, who is the current chair of the cooperative, Brian Frith, who in many ways, as I said before, was the driver of this because of his experiences as the local pharmacist, Peter White, Paul Flint, Ross Maxwell, Jo Courtney, Tamara Wilson, Leni Cleaves and Dr Jenny Porteus.

I would also like to encourage members to participate and show their support, not only by voting for this motion today, but also by attending the cooperative’s AGM to be held at the community health centre on 18 November this year. I commend the motion to the Assembly.

MS HUNTER (Ginninderra—Parliamentary Convenor, ACT Greens) (6.14): I thank Mrs Dunne for bringing this motion on today. The Greens agree that the West Belconnen Health Co-op is proving to be a success, and we too hope to see this model one day replicated by other community groups around Canberra in those locations where there is a lack of GPs.

I would like to start my response to this motion by noting that when we consider policy responses to the increasing demand on primary healthcare services, it is important that we look to strategies that go beyond just GP recruitment and retention.

If we are to provide sustainable solutions, we must diversify the manner in which primary healthcare services are provided. A strong primary healthcare service must incorporate allied health professionals and nurses. I am pleased that these workforces have been able to be linked in with the West Belconnen Health Co-op and that other strategies, such as the nurse practitioner-run walk-in centre, are also proving successful.

The impact of our GP shortage is felt most by those people who are poor, as they cannot afford the increasing upfront fees that must be paid for GP consultations because bulk-billing is not available. Given that the private market provision of GP services in Canberra is insufficient in comparison to our needs, it is appropriate that we look to non-profit models that can be supported by government in their establishment. Once a non-profit model is up and running, it can attain self-sufficiency through alternative finance models that are based on Medicare payments and membership fees. This has been demonstrated out at west Belconnen.

It is important also that we take a moment to reflect and on and support the hard work that was undertaken by the small team that got this co-op up and running. The team begun in 2004, after the local Neighbourhood Watch and P&C Association held a public meeting, concerned about the lack of affordable GPs and health services in their area, which also happens to have a number of low income households. At the time, there was a trend towards corporatisation and centralisation of services away from fringe areas, leaving just one local GP on average per 11,000 people.

This is a trend that we have seen continue in Canberra over the last five years and one which is expected to continue. The small team who initiated the west Belconnen co-operative had little medical experience but were convinced about the social need


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