Page 1550 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 31 March 2009

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Debate (on motion by Mrs Dunne) adjourned to the next sitting.

Health—Wanniassa medical centre

Paper and statement by minister

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Treasurer, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Services and Minister for Women): I present the following paper:

Health and Disability—Standing Committee (Sixth Assembly)—Report 9—Closure of the Wanniassa Medical Centre—Government response, together with a tabling statement

I seek leave to make a statement in relation to the paper.

Leave granted.

MS GALLAGHER: It gives me great pleasure today to table the ACT government’s response to the Standing Committee on Health and Disability’s report No 9 on the closure of the Wanniassa medical centre. I would like to thank the standing committee for its consideration of this important community issue and acknowledge the stakeholder and community members who provided input into the inquiry process.

The ACT government welcomed the committee’s report, which highlights a number of issues, including the shortage of practising GPs in the ACT, the roles of corporations in health service delivery and the impact of the Wanniassa medical centre closure on the patients and GPs in the Tuggeranong Valley.

This inquiry was prompted by community concern over the closure of the Wanniassa medical centre. The Tuggeranong Valley has suffered a number of general practice closures and amalgamations in the recent past. Patients of the Wanniassa medical centre are understandably distressed by the prospect of changing practices or travelling further for consultations. Many of them are worried about losing access to their regular general practitioner or having to wait long periods for consultations.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the whole of the ACT is currently suffering from a shortage of general practitioners. According to the report on government services, the national average for full-time workload equivalent GPs per 100,000 population is 86.1. However, the ACT rate is lower, at 66.8 per 100,000. This is causing problems for the community, such as difficulty in finding a general practice that will take new patients, lower rates of bulk-billing and long waiting times for consultation.

Closure of the Wanniassa medical centre by Primary Health Care and the transfer of doctors to the Phillip health centre highlight some of the issues surrounding the corporatisation of medical services. The ACT community has expressed some concern over this trend. There is a role for corporate medical centres like the ones owned by Primary Health Care Ltd, and these centres have assisted in relieving some of the pressure of hospital emergency departments and raising bulk-billing levels. That said,

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