Page 2160 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 22 June 2010

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The recommendations agreed to in the government’s response include working to develop ways of raising the profile of GPs in the community, commissioning an independent evaluation of the walk-in centre at the Canberra Hospital after 12 months of operation and conducting appropriate consultation with all relevant stakeholders in the development of an e-health strategy.

As members of the Assembly may recall, I announced the establishment of a GP task force to investigate access to primary health care in the ACT. The government response to those 30 recommendations was tabled in the Legislative Assembly on 8 December 2009 and implementation is well underway regarding a number of these recommendations.

While the terms of reference of the standing committee’s inquiry were focused on broader primary health care and related issues than those of the GP task force, it is pleasing to see that the issues raised and recommendations made by the standing committee complement the work of the GP task force.

As members of the Assembly may know, the report on government services 2009 provides a conservative estimate that the ACT is approximately 74 full-time GPs short of the national average of GPs per head of population. To help set direction and facilitate research on the GP workforce and general practice workforce shortages in the ACT, ACT Health and the ACT branch of the AMA have jointly reconvened the GP workforce working group.

The ACT government has also provided funding to the division of general practice to address GP workforce shortages. Since this officer’s appointment in May 2008, a number of successes have been achieved including the approval of 18 area-of-need authorisations and the commencement of 19 GPs, with four more to commence this year.

The ACT division of general practice and ACT Health have also expanded the 2008 nationwide advertising campaign showcasing the lifestyle benefits of living and working in Canberra as a GP to include a direct mail-out to some 4,000 GPs in inner Sydney and Melbourne locations and to target locations including New Zealand and the United Kingdom. 2010 has seen continued advertising nationally and internationally.

In November 2008 the ACT government also announced a $12 million package over four years to support and grow the GP workforce. The package, which received funding on 1 July 2009, consisted of five initiatives which are all progressing well. These include the scholarship program, the GP teaching payments, the GP development fund, the pre-vocational GP placement program and an ACT GP aged day service.

The aged day service was also mentioned in the standing committee’s report as one way to support general practitioners. This service, when established in the ACT, will receive GP referrals and provide primary care to patients in the community such as those in residential aged-care facilities or who are housebound when they are unable to visit their GP or their GP is unable to visit them. The announcement of the successful tender to provide this service is expected to be made shortly.

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