Page 315 - Week 01 - Thursday, 14 February 2008

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Health—continence support scheme

MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (6.08): I would like to speak on an issue which has been raised with me by two of my constituents and which has caused me great frustration over the last few months as I have tried to prompt the government to address their concerns. I refer to the decision of the Minister for Health to withdraw funding for continence products under the ACT continence support scheme. The scheme was discontinued because of the emergence of a similar commonwealth scheme. The government took the view that the ACT scheme would be unnecessary in light of the new commonwealth scheme; therefore it chose to withdraw funding.

Apparently, the government must have miscalculated because, as it turns out, the schemes have not been similar enough and there have been many ACT residents left out of pocket by the change. The government has reversed its decision after realising its initial judgement on the matter was off the mark. The Minister for Health has decided that the ACT scheme will be reintroduced in July 2008, with details still forthcoming.

I have made representations on this matter to the Minister for Health on behalf of two of my constituents, and I have to say that I have not been particularly impressed with the government’s approach. I initially made representations on this issue on 29 October last year, following up on my constituents’ letter to the minister on 25 October. My constituents received a phone call from ACT Health on this issue, informing them that the decision to withdraw continence funding had been reversed and that the program would be reinstituted. However, they did not receive any written response either from ACT Health or from the minister to confirm this advice and give them details on the re-establishment of the program and interim measures for assistance.

Prior to Christmas, my constituents again contacted my office to ask us to follow up this matter. We were informed by the minister’s office that they still had not issued a written response to the letters sent by my constituents or by me. They assured us this would be taken care of. On 25 January this year, having still not received a written response from the minister, I again wrote to the minister, requesting that a written response be provided to my constituents to set out in writing what would be happening.

We finally received a written response yesterday, 13 February, almost four months after the initial representations to the minister. During this time my constituents have been left out of pocket and have been struggling to make ends meet, as they have had to bear more of the costs of the continence products for which they had previously received support.

It is clear from the change of heart on this issue that the government did not properly think through the consequences of withdrawing this scheme. The fact that constituents were unable to receive timely written information on the government’s position, despite several requests, shows the lack of weight that was given to their views. In light of this change, the minister has declared that ACT residents enrolled in the commonwealth continence aids assistance scheme will receive an interim payment of

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