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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 24 June 2021) . . Page.. 2036 ..

bulk-bill people who are low income, people who are pensioners; they often bulk-bill for children and for people with chronic and complex conditions. But for those people who do not have an existing GP, trying to find a service that will admit that it will bulk-bill is very difficult. That presents a real barrier to primary care, and that then creates further expense right across the system, because people who are not accessing good primary care end up not getting their conditions treated early and end up in the secondary and tertiary systems, which are not only more expensive for the ACT government but also have a cost to the commonwealth.

That is why I have asked Minister Hunt to get his officials to work with ours. I have indicated that we are very open to innovative ways of providing better access to primary care, particularly for those on low incomes and those with chronic and complex conditions in the ACT. The ACT is a great place to pilot innovative mechanisms to do that. I am happy to keep Ms Clay updated on those conversations, but we have only just written that letter, and I am hoping that Minister Hunt agrees to do this work with us.

MRS JONES: Minister, what open and transparent process did the government go through in deciding to enter into the $700,000 agreement with the National Health Co-op regarding the Coombs clinic last year, which is now in doubt, and was there a tender process?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Mrs Jones for the question. She is well aware that there was not a tender process for this. This was, of course, an election commitment, so we have been talking to the National Health Co-op about some of the challenges that they were facing.

Members would be aware that the Coombs location was something that was supported by the ACT government through a capital grant, which was a competitive process. It was open to anyone to apply for those grants that were around supporting bulk-billing in parts of the ACT that had low bulk-billing rates. The National Health Co-op were successful in that process and received a capital grant to support the establishment of the Coombs clinic.

The National Health Co-op drew to our attention that they were not using the full space in the Coombs clinic. We were looking to, as I have previously indicated, establish the new medical imaging centre, a community-based imaging centre, at the Weston Creek walk-in centre, and that was going to mean that we would need a new location for our MACH services, but we were also looking to do some innovative things through our walk-in centre announcement. This looked like a really good opportunity to partner to get access. To be clear—and I have said this before—this was going to be a sublease arrangement with the National Health Co-op for that particular space, so that Canberra Health Services could set up the walk-in health centre. But being co-located with a general practice gave that opportunity to do some innovative things.

We have certainly said that we want to work with all of the GPs in the area to understand what it is that we are delivering, and how we can work with all of them. Indeed I will be attending a GP forum this evening to have those conversations.

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