Page 520 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 16 February 2005

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sustainability. It also increases the skills of those involved, who go on, on many occasions, to hold leadership positions in our community.

As I mentioned earlier, the committee has already had the opportunity of meeting with the CEO of the South Kingsville health service, a community health cooperative established in an area of the western suburbs of Melbourne in 1980. This initiative, in an area demographically similar to north-west Belconnen, was also experiencing difficulties in attracting GP services to the area. With the support of the local Baptist church, the health service was started with one GP. Six years later it took its destiny into its own hands and became a cooperative. Today, the South Kingsville health service is thriving, with two locations, 7,600 members, 11 GPs, a host of allied health services providing 25,000 consultations per year and an annual turnover in excess of $2 million. Under the cooperative model, members pay an annual subscription of between $15 and $100, depending on income levels. All GP consultations for members and their families are bulk-billed. They also receive an annual dental check at no charge, plus special rates on other allied health services. The service is fully funded from membership subscriptions and Medicare rebates and any surplus is reinvested into the medical centre or community projects.

The community owned health model has many advantages: it allows doctors to get on with their jobs, rather than having to spend time in managing their practice, and builds local capacity and benefits that stay in the community. It also improves the level of health in that community and promotes genuine community health by allowing members to seek immediate attention for their health concerns, rather than waiting for them to somehow magically get better of their own accord, or perhaps having to wait so long that it endangers their long-term health. Crucially, it takes the pressure off already stretched accident and emergency units at local hospitals, as many of those who seek bulk-billing consultations will present to A&E as their only alternative for medical attention.

Based on the South Kingsville model, it is believed that a membership base of around 1,000 would be required to sustain a medical centre with two, perhaps three, GPs. The committee will continue to investigate and assess this and other options as it seeks a solution to this major concern for those living in Belconnen’s north-west. The outcomes the committee is seeking are congruent with those sought by the government as they will maintain the level of good health in the community, narrow the gap in health outcomes experienced by certain individuals and groups in the community and improve health and community care systems.

The aim of the committee is to develop a community owned health service. This aim is consistent with that of the Canberra social plan, in that it seeks to reduce poverty and exclusion among vulnerable people and build and support community participation based on common interests and outputs. It also seeks to strengthen the health of the community through a whole-of-government approach to health issues and to establish community partnerships to develop sustainable social care supports, improve the good health of the Canberra population and narrow the health gap between the general community and the poor and the disadvantaged. As I said earlier in support of this motion, the members of the Charnwood community health committee are to be congratulated for the innovative approach that they have taken in seeking a solution to the lack of GP services in the area, particularly those who bulk-bill. I seek the support of the Assembly for the motion.

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