Tuesday, 16 March 2021
Shortland Electorate: Health
I'm providing the House with an update today on some very disturbing developments regarding health in the Shortland electorate, which is particularly worrying when we're facing a global pandemic. I've recently been contacted by the principal GP of two medical centres, one on the very southern tip of Shortland in Lake Munmorah and one in the northern part of Dobell at Lake Haven. Both of these communities have significant socioeconomic challenges and access to health care is of fundamental importance.
I'm very concerned that this doctor has been advised of the significant reduction of GPs at these two centres because the area has been reclassified from being a district of workforce shortage area to an MM1 area under the modified Monash model. This means, in the words of Dr Chowdhury, that these areas have a similar classification as metropolitan Sydney. This classification is so far removed from truth that it beggars belief.
Both centres are now working with half the number of GPs they had before the change. Dr Chowdhury told me, 'At our best, both medical centres provide quality medical services. Patients were able to access a GP with waits of no longer than 48 hours. We used to operate weekly diabetic and weight loss clinics, monthly COPD clinics and biannual ABI check clinics. This is now all history. I know our hospital admission rates have increased. We now have wait times of over two weeks to see a GP. Due to financial constraints, we have had to further reduce staff and cannot operate our preventative health programs. Further, much to the disappointment of our GPs, who used to pride themselves on offering services at no cost to patients given the area's low-socio demographic, we are gradually introducing co-payments to patients who can barely afford to pay.' This is just not on. Lake Munmorah and Lake Haven should in no way have the same GP classification as the Sydney CBD or rich Mosman or wealthy Bondi. This is utterly ridiculous. I've written to the minister asking him to urgently reclassify these areas to their previous designation.
Access to health care in Australia should be about the need for treatment and not about a person's ability to pay for treatment. A great Labor maxim is that your Medicare card should be more important than your credit card. What is happening in Lake Haven and Lake Munmorah is exactly what the Liberal Party wanted when they were first elected in 2013: a Medicare co-payment for some of Australia's most disadvantaged people and the end of the universality of Medicare. The government need to urgently change the classifications for these areas to ensure that some of the most disadvantaged people in New South Wales are able to access the treatment they need. I and my Labor colleagues will stand up and defend Medicare, support GPs and defend bulk-billing. Those on the other side are intent on the destruction of Medicare and further disadvantaging people in my community.