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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (13 November) . . Page.. 3596 ..

Mr Cornwell: Most unfortunate words.

MR WOOD: Yes, indeed. This would improve the coverage of CALMS. We will also discuss with GPs whether we in the ACT can progress other aspects of the proposal which the Commonwealth rejected.

ACT Health is currently engaged in 18 projects that actively involve general practitioners. These projects involve working cooperatively to address the needs of the ACT population and cover a wide range of health issues, including HIV/AIDS, diabetes care, youth health services, aged care, opiate addiction, mental health and self-management of chronic conditions. These programs demonstrate that the needs of the disadvantaged in our community are receiving attention from ACT Health and from general practitioners. These programs do not solve the GP shortage in the ACT or the lack of bulk-billing, but they do make the limited resources more targeted.

In summary, while I acknowledge the seriousness of the issue, I cannot agree with Ms Tucker that the solution is for the ACT government to develop a new strategy to ensure access to services of GPs. So I have moved the amendment you have in front of you, which enables the government to provide to the Assembly a report about the many projects we are currently involved in with GPs and our plans to augment after-hours GP services. This will improve access and hopefully take some pressure off hospital emergency departments after hours.

As everyone knows, the Commonwealth government controls the funding for GP services through the fee-for-service Medicare system. They control the supply of GPs through controlling medical training in the higher education system. But the shortage of GPs and the lack of access to bulk-billing are problems which the Commonwealth government must address.

In the meantime, this government will continue to work with GPs to ensure that everything in our power to meet the health care needs of Canberrans. The Health Minister is very happy to provide a report to the Assembly on what we are doing and plan to do. It is a great pity the Commonwealth government will not do the same.

MS DUNDAS (9.02): I will be addressing both the substantive motion and the amendment. The issue of access to general practitioners has been raised several times this year in the Assembly. Back in May I asked the Minister for Health what he was doing to improve access to affordable medical services. Mr Stanhope replied then that addressing the GP shortage was primarily an issue for the federal government, as has been repeated by Minister Wood today. It is clear that the federal government is not concerned enough about the welfare of Canberrans to tackle the problem. That means that it is left up to the ACT Assembly and the ACT government.

In his response to my question put in May, the Minister for Health pointed to the Canberra medical school as part of the longer term solution to the GP shortage. I agree that a local medical school will play an important role in training and retaining local doctors. But I doubt that it will solve the problem entirely.

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