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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (19 February) . . Page.. 144 ..

MR CORBELL (Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (11.37): Labor will support this amendment. For the interest of members, and following Ms Tucker's comments, I will be conveying very strongly at the Health Ministers conference this Friday, as I did at the previous meeting at the beginning of February, the very real and immediate issues faced by our community.

I will be strongly conveying that we have the lowest rate of bulk-billing in the country and a serious shortage of GPs, comparable with outer metropolitan or rural and regional areas in other parts of the country and subsequent pressure on our public hospital system-particularly our emergency departments.

Along with all of my colleague state and territory ministers, I will be outlining what we believe is a holistic response to the issues we face-because, whilst the ACT has areas of pressure, it is not unique. All states and territories face similar dilemmas when it comes to bulk-billing, the provision of GPs and pressure on our public hospital systems-the capacity of our health system overall.

Mr Speaker, I would like to table a letter to the federal minister which I, along with all other state and territory ministers, signed. This outlines the position of the combined governments on an overhaul of the health system. I table that for the information of members.

Health Care Agreements-Special meeting of State and Territory Health Ministers-Tuesday, 4 February 2003-Facsimile copy of letter and attachment, dated 19 February 2003, from State and Territory Health Ministers to the Federal Minister for Minister for Health and Ageing.

MR CORBELL: That is the agenda I will be pursuing, along with all other state and territory ministers. We have a unique opportunity to undertake a collaborative and wide-ranging process of reform. It requires the Commonwealth to engage, not walk away from the table, especially when the Commonwealth has called us to the table for the meeting this Friday.

Ms Tucker's amendment agreed to.

MS DUNDAS (11.39): Mr Speaker, I take this opportunity to speak on the motion in general, without amendments clouding it, which we will be discussing later. The issue of access to GPs has been raised several times in this Assembly. As we have heard in this debate, it is an area of interest to all of us.

Back in May 2002, I asked the then Minister for Health what he was doing to improve access to affordable medical services. Mr Stanhope replied that addressing the GP shortage was primarily an issue for the federal government.

The Minister for Health has pointed to the Canberra Medical School as the longer-term solution to the shortage of GPs in the ACT. I agree that a local medical school will play an important role in training and retaining local doctors, but I doubt it will entirely solve the problem. In September last year I introduced a motion, which was passed, calling on the ACT government to accelerate the accreditation of nurse practitioners to address Canberra's growing GP shortage.

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