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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 2817 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

quality and safety in Australian health care. All States and Territories will contribute to the council's core funding. Subsequent funding will be sought on a project by project basis.

The next key element was the rural medical workforce. The recruitment process for overseas trained general practitioners will be streamlined in an attempt to reduce the shortage of trained personnel in rural areas. The process will be implemented with the assistance of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine.

Health data was yet another key element. A national health information action plan is proposed. The plan will facilitate progress by bringing coherence and unity of purpose to the national health information management and the national information technology agendas. Nationally consistent health data protection legislation will be developed under the plan. The legislation developed in the ACT was viewed positively by the conference. Health Ministers believe that the ACT legislation will provide a very useful guide for them in further action in this area.

The Commonwealth is keen to bring forward legislation that provides a framework for specific health data collection and sharing arrangements, including electronic medical records. Such arrangements might enable the use of a unique patient identifier and might result in the linking of data from the medical benefits schedule, the pharmaceutical schedule and hospital services. This work has the potential to establish a new national dataset of de-identified clinical and administrative data, information from which would inform health reform in ways previously not possible in Australia.

The health and medical research strategic review, known as the Wills review, has examined the strengths and weaknesses of the Australian health and medical research sector. A strategy to ensure that the Australian health research sector remains internationally competitive and responsive to Australian health sector needs has been endorsed. The strategy involves the development of an effective health and medical research sector built on high-impact fundamental research and a world-class workforce and infrastructure; priority driven research that contributes directly to population health and evidence based health care; an industry sector that mutually reinforces the research sector; and increased public investment in a well-managed research sector.

I turn to national health priority areas. The Health Ministers launched reports on three priority areas - cardiovascular health; diabetes; and mental health, focusing on depression. New and innovative ways to address these major illnesses are needed. The national health priority areas reports are tangible evidence that, in a spirit of national cooperation, we have searched for - and hopefully found - those new ways. The ACT has been extensively involved in the development of these reports.

The proposed national depression action plan that Health Ministers agreed to progress is a timely move, given that the World Health Report 1999 highlights depression as a major health challenge for the coming decades. As a matter of urgency, we need a greater understanding of the causes of depression and we need more effective treatments. In the ACT, we are continuing to move more to a community focus on care, with an increasing proportion of the resources going to programs that intervene early.

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