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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 11 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3199 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

There certainly is a shortage of GPs. Ms Dundas quite rightly points to the potential for nurse practitioners to alleviate some of the workload and issues faced by general practitioners in their work. I understand that we are between 50 and 60 GPs shy of the national average per capita coverage of GPs. There is a whole range of other health professional services that might be assisted by the availability of nurse practitioners.

Ms Dundas touched on one reason for the enormous leakage of nurses from the health work force in the ACT, around Australia and perhaps worldwide. It is something elected representatives and communities must address. Communities in Australia and perhaps worldwide do not accord nurses the respect their profession, professional qualifications and professional qualifications demand. We demonstrate that through traditional levels of pay. We demonstrate it through a traditional disregard for nursing as a profession. That certainly is an issue this government is determined to address.

I agree entirely with Ms Dundas in her determination to highlight the importance of the nursing professional to the delivery of health care and the functioning of the health care system. Nurses constitute about 70 per cent of the nursing work force. They are an enormous component of the nursing work force. The systems would simply collapse without the dedication and commitment of nurses to health care delivery. That is a position we do not acknowledge often enough. In fact, we have a tradition of putting down nurses. I remember in debates in the previous Assembly the sneering disregard for nurses, for the ANF and for nursing as a profession by previous ministers for health. We have turned that around with our attitude to the nursing profession and the importance of nursing. We reflected that through our determination to end the very divisive and debilitating industrial dispute that occupied much of the last Assembly.

I support the thrust of this motion, but the government cannot support a motion which calls on it to implement a report that has not yet been written and the government has not received. Given the progress reports we have received along the way and the general acceptance which I know exists within the public service about the success of the trial, I have no doubt that we will be responding positively to the report.

I cannot commit the government to implement a report that has not yet been written and has not yet been received by me. I do not have the benefit of the advice of the nurse practitioner trial steering committee which is preparing the report. So I am proposing an amendment, which I will circulate as Mr Smyth speaks, calling on the Assembly to note that the ACT government has conducted the trial and that we will examine an accreditation program and undertake to report to the Assembly on that when the report has been received and the government has had an opportunity to respond it. The government supports the thrust of the motion, but I do not believe it is appropriate for the Assembly to call on the government to implement a report that it has not received.

MR SMYTH (11.22): Mr Speaker, I thank Ms Dundas for bringing this very important issue to the attention of the Assembly. It is something the previous government took very seriously. We were the government that established the trial, which has now been completed.

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