Page 724 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 26 February 2013

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MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mr Hanson.

MR HANSON: Minister, why do medical centres continue to close due to a lack of doctors, especially in outer suburbs like Spence, despite the rationale given in your previous answer?

MS GALLAGHER: Because doctors make business decisions. They are small businesses. Again, if you talk to family practice GPs, they will tell you that, with respect to running a business when there are models coming in where the corporate overheads in particular are being managed under a different model, there are challenges. There are challenges in that patients want pathology done, they want imaging done, they want bulk-billing, they want nurses to provide a whole range of other services there. These are the models that are emerging across the city and it is what patients want as well. If you go and look, I think this has been well understood. Medicare Local is undertaking a current needs analysis of general practice, at my request, that the government has funded, to get an exact snapshot of what the GP landscape is like now, because two years ago you could not get an appointment. Now I think almost every general practice has its books open—

Opposition members interjecting—

MS GALLAGHER: I thought you might have been interested in the answer, but the answer is that the books are open for general practice. General practitioners are advertising in the paper. That is not something you have seen in the last three years or so. There is capacity in the GP workforce to see patients. But, yes, the model is changing and the old days of having a general practice at your local shop is changing, and it is changing because the way we deliver health care is changing and the needs of patients are changing.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mr Coe.

MR COE: Minister, why are we so far behind other jurisdictions in relation to access to GPs?

MS GALLAGHER: I think that is a very naive view of what is happening across Australia.

Mr Hanson interjecting—

MS GALLAGHER: In large metropolitan areas like Sydney and Melbourne you will find an oversupply of general practice, but you go to any regional place in Australia and start saying they are all doing better than Canberra in relation to general practice. You do not even have to travel an hour outside of Canberra to hear from local councils about the troubles of recruiting and retaining a medical workforce. It is extremely naive and it is having a hopeless pot shot at Canberra when our health system is actually a very good one. Yes, there are challenges, but to think that we are lagging behind everyone else in GP land is just simply incorrect.

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