Page 264 - Week 01 - Thursday, 14 February 2008

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MR SPEAKER: Members of the opposition, cease interjecting or you will join Mr Smyth.

Mr Hargreaves: Ha, ha, ha.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Hargreaves, discontinue your antics.

MS GALLAGHER: If I miss out an important ingredient, Mrs Burke will not understand it and she will make a fool of herself, as she did last night when she spoke in the adjournment debate.

Let us start again. A patient is referred to a public hospital. It is only then that they can be classified as a public patient. A GP cannot determine whether a patient is a public patient or a private patient. The patient at that point is simply a patient. The patient can exercise choice about whether they are a public or private patient only at the point that hospital services are offered. That may be in the private rooms of a private specialist who says, “You require this treatment” and then asks, “Do you have private health insurance or not?” The patient then exercises the choice by saying, “I would like to be seen as a public patient.” That is where the public-private patient choice can be realised.

The other issue that seems to be slightly blurred is the role of VMOs. VMOs are private doctors who have a public contract to perform some public work, whether that be in an outpatients clinic—

Mrs Burke: Point of order Mr Speaker: is this an answer to a question on the notice paper regarding VMOs?

MS GALLAGHER: No, it is not.

Mrs Burke: There is a question on the notice paper.

MR SPEAKER: Can you point me to the question.

Mrs Burke: It is on the notice paper.

MR SPEAKER: The question was: how does a person navigate the health system? I do not know of a question of that nature on the notice paper. Unless you can point me to it, I will ask the health minister to continue.

MS GALLAGHER: Mr Speaker, I will be very careful not to go to the heart of the question on the notice paper. It is not a quota system whereby they have a public contract which means that, if someone turns up to their private rooms and says, “I’d like to be seen as a public patient”, it is the responsibility of the private specialist to perform that work; the contract exists in the public system only.

For example, if a patient visits a GP for an appointment and his private GP assesses him as requiring the attention of a specialist, he will write a referral for the patient and bill him privately. He will then take the referral to a private specialist, who may or

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