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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 11 Hansard (Tuesday, 23 October 2018) . . Page.. 4100 ..

The National Health Co-op has made an enormous contribution to expanding the ACT’s bulk-billing rates over the past few years in a community ownership model. Their grant is $350,000 to establish a new multidisciplinary general practice in the suburb of Coombs. This will support not only bulk-billing GPs but also allied health services such as physios, psychologists, nutritionists and dietitians. They will expand their hours as demand increases in this fast growing area of Canberra and they will also be able to employ allied health staff working across their network to spend more time in the Coombs practice to deliver more primary healthcare to local residents.

MR PETTERSSON: Minister, how does access to affordable primary health care reduce pressure on other parts of the health system?

MS FITZHARRIS: I thank Mr Pettersson for the supplementary question. As we know, the ACT has a growing and ageing population, which will result in increased demand for health and hospital services in the future. Our effort is to make sure that as many Canberrans as possible get the primary health care they need when they need it to reduce the likelihood that they may need to present to hospital.

Certainly the extended commonwealth freeze on Medicare rebates placed enormous pressure on GPs, and, as I said earlier, particularly on local ACT GPs and other parts of our primary healthcare network as individuals could not seek further bulk-billing services.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the ACT had 8,000 potentially preventable hospitalisations in 2015-16. Although this was the second lowest number in the country, there is still work we all need to do. A focus on improving preventative care, better maintaining people’s physical and mental health, and improving the management of existing conditions through high quality primary health care like GPs and our nurse-led walk-in centres will help to manage service demand into the future and, importantly, lead to better health outcomes.

By supporting GPs to provide bulk-billing appointments, we are supporting access to primary health care here in the ACT. This is why the government established a grant scheme to support the expansion of affordable, accessible primary health care in Canberra’s south. This is an important initiative to reduce pressures on other sectors of the healthcare system and improve the health and wellbeing of the community in the ACT.

In addition to the grants process, there were some remaining funds, and we will be working further with GPs, using those funds to find new and more innovative ways to continue to support GPs to provide bulk-billing services to the Canberra community.

Mr Barr: I ask that all further questions be placed on the notice paper.

Supplementary answer to question without notice

Canberra Hospital—radiology department

MS FITZHARRIS: I refer to Mrs Dunne’s earlier questions about radiology. I advise Mrs Dunne that the new clinical director was appointed approximately two weeks ago.

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