House debates

Friday, 12 June 2020

Questions without Notice

Health Care

3:05 pm

Photo of Damian DrumDamian Drum (Nicholls, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government. Will the minister update the House on measures the Morrison-McCormack government is taking to support local communities with practical health reforms, including the new pharmacy agreements, through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond?

3:06 pm

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker, Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government) Share this | | Hansard source

I'd like to thank the member for Nicholls for his question and recognise that he is a very fierce and strong advocate for health delivery in his electorate. The regions of Australia have come through and are dealing with the COVID-19 crisis very well. Despite a couple of hotspots, which were handled very well by the federal government and state authorities, regional Australia has had a very low level of infection and remained remarkably unscathed through this time. This has been achieved by the quick rollout of telehealth services; more implementation of money for retrieval for the flying doctor and for CareFlight; 133 GP led respiratory clinics, more than half of those in regional Australia; and some great work by the Rural Health Commissioner, Professor Paul Worley, who, despite the regular work he's been doing on formulating policy for health delivery in regional Australia, has played a pivotal role in the COVID-19 crisis, helping GP led respiratory clinics. The role of the Rural Health Commissioner has been very important since it was instigated in 2019.

I'm very proud to say that this morning I introduced into this House the legislation, which hopefully will be debated next week, to extend that role of Rural Health Commissioner, and the office of the Rural Health Commissioner, into the future. It will have an expanded role. The next Rural Health Commissioner will have two deputies with experience in allied health, nursing and Indigenous health to understand that we are going to have a more holistic and multidisciplinary approach to delivering health services to regional Australia. This is along with pharmacy, and I'd like to acknowledge the work that the health minister has done this week in securing the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement so that there's certainty in that sector, because, quite frankly, regional Australia is best serviced when we're using all the resources we have at hand.

With the Rural Health Commissioner and with the pharmacy agreement, we will deliver a service to regional Australia that it deserves. With regard to COVID-19, the regions have come out very strongly. People have worked out that they can actually work from the regions with customers overseas or in capital cities. Regional Australia has not only kept this country afloat during this time; it is the way of the future. If we are going to reach the full potential of regional Australia, the people of the regions are going to have a health service that is what they deserve and what they need.