Page 1336 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 25 March 2009

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MADAM ASSISTANT SPEAKER: Did you withdraw it?

MS GALLAGHER: I did withdraw it, yes. I withdraw it.

MADAM ASSISTANT SPEAKER: Perhaps if you would address your remarks to the chair, it would be easier, Ms Gallagher.

MS GALLAGHER: Thank you, Madam Assistant Speaker. The point here is that you cannot accept Mr Smyth’s line, because it is not supported by the evidence. It is not supported by utilisation rates in the public hospital. It is not supported by measures of utilisation of private health insurance. It is not supported by the number of doctors that we have recruited to the system and the reasons why those doctors are coming to work in the ACT. We have 43 new specialists who have made the decision to come and work in the ACT public health system because of the commitments the government has made about being serious about creating a health system that will meet this community’s needs for the future.

MR HANSON (Molonglo) (4.46): I am closing the debate. I have been asked to be brief because we want to get through all the business today. I notice that the last item listed on the program is a motion to note that the abrupt closure of the Kippax family practice has caused significant concern and disruption to staff and patients of local communities. So I look forward to getting to that one, and I will, accordingly, be as brief as I am able.

I thank members for their comments in the debate today. Certainly, it has been a vigorous debate and, as is the nature of this place, there have been different points of view put forward. But the singular argument put forward that is recognised by all of us is that there is a problem and something needs to be done, and that the most appropriate venue to do that is in the Assembly’s health committee. So if I could summarise the debate in that regard, then I think it has been a positive outcome. Although it has disagreed on some of the detail, it is good to see that the Assembly has agreed on the substance of the matter, which is that we are in a dire situation in the ACT, both in terms of GP numbers per capita and the number of GP clinics that have closed over the past few years. Of late there seems to be an accelerating number, particularly in the north of Canberra in Belconnen.

There is a broad understanding from the debate, I think, of the impact on individuals, and the pain and suffering caused—I say those words because they are quite real words in this case—as a result of not having a GP, not having access to a GP and the consequences of that. There is understanding of the impact on the health and wellbeing of our community and on the impact of our broader health system, in particular, and the pressure that that puts on our hospitals. Then there is the fact that the government has not done enough, and that has been broadly acknowledged today. By virtue of the fact that we seem to have support from the crossbench and the government bench, that indicates that the government has, to some degree, run out of ideas and that it does need help in this regard.

I welcome Ms Burch’s amendment, and I thank her for it. I note her passion for health matters as a former nurse. Indeed, what this motion does is move us towards a debate

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