Page 3576 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 26 August 2008
issues, we can make this a far more attractive place for GPs to come to. It is pointless having a Live In Canberra campaign and it is pointless to say, “Come and work here, come and live here,” if we are going to make it as difficult as possible. We really need to make that process much better.
As I said, we are not talking about lightening the necessary tight controls; we are talking about the slackness in failing to convene a committee to assess an application in a timely way. It should not take months to convene a committee at a local level. If it is, we need to look at why that is happening. We need to make sure that we can keep this process moving in a timely and expeditious way. It has nothing to do with being careful about assessing an application for an overseas doctor. We need to be careful that we assess those qualifications at the highest level.
One doctor told the inquiry, “If you want us to see patients, make it easier for us.” She was talking about the need to cut down local administrative red tape. The closure of the Wanniassa medical centre was a lesson in how the corporatisation of medicine can be against the interests of patients. It meant that upwards of 60,000 patients were left without a local doctor in that immediate vicinity. This is a problem, as I said, for elderly people who do not have their own means of transport. The hourly bus service is already proving to be quite detrimental for some.
The committee in its report talks about transport issues and making sure that we work with regional community services in relation to how we can better assist at a local level with transport for those people who need to see a doctor, so that they get the help they need when they need it. It has been a little disappointing, not just from my perspective but from that of many in the community, that the response by the minister was, “Well, all we can do is nothing, because it’s a federal government problem.” In my book, waiting to be bailed out by the federal government is not being proactive, and the knee-jerk reaction of talking about blocks of land and walk-in clinics where there will be no GPs is not a solution.
The inquiry raised the issue of the Wanniassa premises remaining empty because Primary Health Care will retain the lease. We believe that is clearly anticompetitive but we are making further investigations along those lines. It would be a good way of getting new doctors as the patient clientele is ready and waiting. The inquiry has shown that the government needs to do something about stopping this practice. It is clearly not a model which is for the good of the community. So it is absolutely essential that we work with all people providing medical services in a much closer way than we have probably done in the past.
With respect to corporatisation, if we just sit back and let it happen, it will. If we have a will to work with all stakeholders, to do what we can and to really push the federal government hard on this matter, hopefully we will see more GPs coming to live in Canberra.
We also talked about bulk-billing. The bulk-billing rate in the ACT has been significantly lower than throughout the rest of the country. The report states that one reason for this is the high costs associated with running a general practice. Also, there is the fact that it is more costly than anywhere else in Australia to live. We have