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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 8 Hansard (19 August) . . Page.. 2777 ..

MR CORBELL: I thank Ms MacDonald for this question. I am very pleased to confirm to members today that the government has announced funding of close to $700,000 over the next two years to increase the effectiveness of the Canberra After Hours Locum Medical Service.

Mr Speaker, we've seen a significant decline in the number of GPs prepared to participate in this important medical service. That is why the government has worked closely with the Division of General Practice, with the AMA, with local GPs to ensure that we are able to boost the viability and the accessibility of GPs through CAHLMS, the Canberra After Hours Locum Medical Service.

Mr Speaker, the $700,000 approximately the government is investing in this initiative over the next two years will ensure that, first of all, general practitioners get paid an on-call allowance to make their services available after hours, particularly in the crucial time between 11 pm and 6 am. Secondly, the funding will assist in the provision of security services for GPs who feel they need them for the purposes of a home visit. I was talking to one of the GPs involved in CAHLMS at the announcement at lunchtime today, and he made the point that a number of GPs actually get their spouse to go with them when they do make a house call late at night, because they don't feel safe.

Mr Speaker, the government is addressing this issue by making sure that GPs get a better level of support. I just wish that the federal government showed the same level of support to GPs as the ACT is through this initiative.

What have we seen from the federal government when it comes to support for GPs? We've seen an extra dollar as long as they bulk-bill all health care cardholders. Let me tell you, Mr Speaker: Mr Smyth should go out there and talk to the local GP community and he'll soon find out it's gone down like a lead balloon.

An incident having occurred in the gallery-

MR SPEAKER: Order! I order that the person who was just removed from the Assembly not be allowed back in the Assembly's precincts until I advise further.

MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, the initiatives from the federal government, when it comes to supporting GP services in Canberra, are some of the lowest and, in fact, the measliest that we have ever seen.

This initiative will ensure that GP services are improved after hours. It is not the solution in and of itself, but it is an important step forward, Mr Speaker. What really disappoints me is that, when the Division of General Practice, with the support of the ACT government went to the federal government and said, "Are you prepared to fund this initiative?", they said no, they were not prepared to fund this initiative. But the ACT government is because we understand how important general practice services are in the ACT.

This is an important step forward and a great example of the ACT government collaborating with GPs in our community to improve our community's access to the important primary care services that they need.

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