Page 786 - Week 02 - Thursday, 25 February 2010

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agreed to by this government have vindicated the attitude of the opposition and the community over many years—that is, there is a lot that can be done by government at a local level.

It is a great pity that arrogance has prevented this government from acting and has led us into being in the position of having the lowest number of GPs per capita. In relation to this shortage, Ms Gallagher has been quoted as saying in this place with deep concern:

There is absolutely nothing I can do.

Again, on ABC news in March last year, the minister said:

All we can do is, is, I guess seek the corporate goodwill of some of these providers.

Now we have seen our GP bulk-billing rates, which are already the lowest in the nation, decline even further. The latest statistics, which can be conveniently found on the ALP’s own website, show that the rate of bulk-billing in the ACT is a ridiculously and shamefully low 46 per cent. The next best jurisdiction was the Northern Territory, which recorded 65 per cent. That is nearly 20 per cent better. New South Wales, just across the border, recorded a bulk-billing rate of 84 per cent, 40 per cent more, or nearly double, than the ACT.

The Medicare statistics published by the Department of Health and Ageing for the December quarter also reveal that we are paying more for GP services than the rest of the nation, with fewer GPs in Canberra observing scheduled fees than anywhere else in Australia. Not only is accessibility to GPs an issue but affordability can be factored in too.

The issues we face as the nation’s worst performer when it comes to GPs are only compounded when we see the poor results for elective surgery waiting times and emergency department waiting times. Still no responsibility has been taken by this government. Perhaps it has been the distraction of the last 18 months with the government’s failed attempt to acquire Calvary Hospital. The facts remain—we are paying more, waiting longer and getting less. These are all matters of deep concern.

The revelations of recent days that there is a “toxic” culture, a 10-year war, within the obstetrics unit is not that surprising given the long history of administrative issues in ACT Health. We have seen the tragic handling of the first swine flu casualty, the appalling treatment of a woman who miscarried in a toilet in the Canberra Hospital emergency department, the exposure of mothers and babies to TB, ACT Health sending bills to families of babies who had died after being in the ward, bullying and harassment in our obstetrics and gynecology wards resulting in the loss of nine doctors, the advice to a mother who subsequently delivered a healthy baby that she should have an abortion and, last but not least, health performance that is the worst in the nation and a 10-year war within the obstetrics unit. These are all matters of deep concern.

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