Page 3085 - Week 08 - Thursday, 7 August 2008

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DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (5.19): This is an issue that, while it is specifically occurring in Wanniassa, will impact on the whole of Canberra. The practice is moving from Wanniassa into Phillip; that is, into Molonglo. We have an absolute shortage of GP practices in the ACT already. It is extremely difficult to get your name on the list of any doctor, and really the first principle in decent health care is having a doctor who knows you. There is nothing worse than going to a practice where you just have to sit and wait and see whoever comes to call you from the line.

I was reading something in the paper yesterday about how GPs are really concerned because there is so much use of the internet in self-diagnosis. That is actually particularly prevalent amongst our young people who have got used to using the internet for lots of other things as well. But we are going to be pushed into doing this kind of thing unless we turn around the trend that is happening in our general practice.

I do have to point out the irony of a medical business being called Primary Health Care. When we call for good primary health care services we are actually invoking the name of this corporation, which it seems does not really prioritise primary health care at all. I am aware of the impact this will have for the local pharmacist and the flow-on effects in our community. It is a Greens’ principle that we have local facilities as close to hand to people as we can make them.

But I cannot let this debate go by without pointing out that we are talking here about a private health provider who, of course, has every right to make its decisions based on its bottom line, because we know that is what private business is all about. A number of years ago a government chose to allow this wedge into our health care. We used to have in the ACT a very good system of community health centres, which included GPs and probably a number of allied health providers as well so that if a private provider decided to move there was still an option.

I am quite sure, although I do not have the details to hand, that we had a community medical centre in Wanniassa. We certainly had one in Belconnen and we had them elsewhere. Now we do not have them. We said, “Okay, the market can look after our health care and, mate, this is what you get.” It is a little bit late to shut the gate; the horse has bolted on that one. But the government can play a role in insisting on and in developing community health facilities—whether they are nurse practitioner led, as Ms Gallagher was suggesting, or whether they have a group of other allied health practitioners as well.

It is really important that we do provide that, because we are going to need a lot more health care in the future and we cannot stop private health providers doing what they are set up to do. It is just a little late. Where was everybody during those Carnell years when those community health centres were closed?

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (5.23): This is a very important issue and it is pleasing to see that there is support right across the Assembly for this inquiry to begin. I am keen to see it start as soon as possible. I have been a patient of this particular service and my children have in the past as well; so it is disappointing to see it change in this way. I certainly hope that the health committee’s inquiry can come up with some alternatives for us. But I think that, as members have said here tonight, the

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