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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 11 Hansard (Tuesday, 23 October 2018) . . Page.. 4099 ..

MS FITZHARRIS: I thank Ms Cody for the question. Over the past decade the ACT government has undertaken a variety of programs aimed at increasing the bulk-billing rates here in the ACT so that GPs can continue the work they do, providing extremely high quality primary health care to our community. Our priority is to ensure that as many Canberrans as possible can access bulk-billing GP services. We have a strong commitment to universal public health care where and when Canberrans need it.

Our initiatives are working despite the federal Liberal government’s extension of the Medicare rebate freeze, which GPs have said repeatedly, including here in the ACT, has made it very difficult for them over the past few years. According to Medicare statistics, GP bulk-billing rates in the ACT have climbed from 50 per cent in the June quarter of 2018 to 62.8 per cent in the June quarter of this year. But we want to improve those rates even further.

During the last election ACT Labor committed to increase GP bulk-billing rates, particularly where we knew there were gaps in service; that is, particularly on the south side of Canberra. Last year’s budget provided $1 million for a grant scheme to support the expansion of bulk-billing GP practices in Canberra’s south. I am really pleased to say that three grant recipients have been selected, all demonstrating a strong commitment to bulk-billing and improved primary health care for clients in the Tuggeranong and Molonglo Valley areas. These are the Interchange General Practice, the Isabella Plains Medical Centre and the National Health Co-op. All three have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to providing bulk-billing GP services to south-siders. We are doing our part to ensure that health care in Canberra remains affordable.

MS CODY: Minister, what projects will be delivered as a result of the bulk-billing grants?

MS FITZHARRIS: I am really pleased to say that all the grant recipients demonstrate a very strong commitment to bulk-billing, particularly in the Tuggeranong and Molonglo areas where, indeed, two of those practices are expanding into opening new practices as a result of this grant.

The Interchange General Practice will receive a grant of $500,000 to establish a new seven to eight-room general practice in Tuggeranong. When fully staffed, the practice will provide up to 35,000 consultations each year and have a particular focus on vulnerable population groups and issues such as drug or alcohol dependencies, sexuality and gender diversity, chronic conditions and mental health.

The Isabella Plains Medical Centre, a very busy local centre, will receive a grant of $111,000 to expand and enhance their current practice. This grant will ensure that more patients will be bulk-billed, it will improve ease of access for many of their clients and improve privacy, particularly for vulnerable groups of patients. It will provide them the ability to purchase equipment to support continued and expanded visits to outreach clinics including, importantly, to a number of local residential aged care facilities or, indeed, in patients’ homes.

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