Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 20 October 2011) . . Page.. 4753 ..
The feedback we have had from general practices has been extremely positive. They have been able to use these grants from the ACT community to be able to upgrade, expand and allow for innovation to occur within their practices.
MR HANSON: Supplementary, Mr Speaker.
MR SPEAKER: Yes, Mr Hanson.
MR HANSON: Minister, is it still true that the ACT has the lowest number of GPs per capita in Australia, the lowest rates of bulk-billing in Australia and the highest cost of visiting a GP in Australia?
MS GALLAGHER: You can always count on Jeremy Hanson to come in on what—
MR SPEAKER: Chief Minister, some facts.
MS GALLAGHER: is a positive story about GP infrastructure payments. In terms of the GP shortage, yes, I imagine. I have not seen anything to say that we have got to the national average of GPs. We have recruited 34 additional GPs, but of course there have been a number of GPs that are close to retirement age.
In terms of bulk-billing, this is a fraught issue in the sense that GPs do not believe that they should be required to bulk-bill and these are business decisions that they make themselves. Of course, the walk-in centre now has seen over 20,000 people. The walk-in centre is a service we established to ensure that people with low-acuity illnesses and injuries would be able to access out of hours and free primary health care. That has been enormously successful. We know that GPs have a view about the expansion of that and whether it should be expanded, but in terms of the government’s responsibility we do not have the capacity to order GPs to bulk-bill although I will be interested to see if that is something that Mr Hanson comes up with during the election campaign. We do not, and we do not think it is the right thing to do. The right thing to do is to look at other models to provide care in an affordable and effective way. And we have done just that.
MS PORTER: A supplementary, Mr Speaker.
MR SPEAKER: Yes, Ms Porter.
MS PORTER: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Minister, what other GP initiatives has the government introduced in this term of the government?
MS GALLAGHER: I thank Ms Porter for the question. The $4 million in the GP development fund was part of a $12 million commitment in GP support initiatives. We have also established the business hours aged care GP locum service, which provides care to people who cannot easily access their GP practice. I spoke to the GPs who have been providing that service and we will have to look at how it goes. It is early days but it is certainly filling a need in the aged care sector.