Page 521 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 16 February 2005

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MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (5.13 pm): The opposition is delighted to support the motion, although I must admit that initially I thought I might have a slight problem here because Mary and I were actually part of the Charnwood community health committee. But, in fact, we are now patrons; we are not on the committee. I might have had a conflict of interest in voting on a motion to congratulate myself. Also, being a second row forward and not a back, I would have had great difficulty voting on a motion to congratulate myself. But we are not members; we are patrons. Indeed, a number of members of this Assembly—all the members for Ginninderra—as well as the local federal members, are patrons. It is with great pleasure that I rise to support the motion, as will my colleagues.

It is appropriate that we take note of and congratulate the work of the committee, as Mary read out, for their endeavours to establish this health centre in Charnwood and the surrounding areas with bulk-billing doctors and allied health services. The members of the committee have done a wonderful job in the short period of time since the committee was formed back in September last year at a public meeting downstairs in the Ginninderra Labor Club. Already representatives from a similar type of set-up have come up from Melbourne and briefed the committee. Also, the committee will be actively involved in the annual Charnwood fair, which is on 12 March. It has already sent out throughout the relevant suburbs a questionnaire, which is now in the process of being collected and collated.

It is very sad to see that a number of doctors who practised in the area in recent years no longer practise. I remember pleading with Dr Berenson back in May-June 2003 to continue practising. I know that he had had trouble with the ACT government and urban services about where he was located. That was finally resolved to the extent that at least he was promised he would be given another place to operate out of in the region. Unfortunately, the government was a bit tardy and it was too late for him. He decided he had had enough and ceased to practise. He had about 3,000 patients on the books and they were very sad to see their family doctor cease to practise. I remember talking, too, to the doctor who then practised at Charnwood, to see if he would like to stay. In fact, I think there might have been more than one there at one time, but the doctor there also, for personal reasons, wanted to move on and do something else and could not be persuaded to stay.

It is hard being a general practitioner. I know of a number of doctors who have ceased to practise in recent times. That does not help in an area like north-west Belconnen with the sort of demography that Ms Porter has mentioned. There is a real need for some type of medical facility there. Brian Frith, the chemist, does a wonderful job of assisting people. He and his staff sometimes do some basic treatment on people who would have immense difficulty getting medical treatment. Many of the residents who attend the Charnwood chemist find it very difficult to get to, for example, Calvary Hospital. They rely on public transport. Sometimes they just have to go to Calvary Hospital for things that could be done by a doctor or some sort of health facility. Brian Frith reckons that sometimes between 15 and 20 patients come to his chemist shop because they need medical assistance. If they had to go to Calvary, they would be there in emergency waiting to see medical staff. Obviously, if they could be treated by a doctor or proper medical people in their own area, that would relieve pressure on the hospital. So that would be a win-win situation. No one has the answer yet as to what is the best way forward, but this

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