House debates

Tuesday, 17 October 2023


Lyons Electorate: Health Care

7:44 pm

Photo of Brian MitchellBrian Mitchell (Lyons, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to provide an update on health services in my electorate. It's no secret that the nation is continuing to grapple with a longstanding regional health crisis brought about by a critical shortage of doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses and other health professionals. The unwillingness or inability of health professionals to practice in the regions, whether it's too far or the business model is too risky, collides daily with the need for people in the regions to be able to access health care. It's an issue the Albanese Labor government, under the leadership of health minister Mark Butler, is aware of and is committed to addressing. The fact is: people deserve access to quality health care in Australia no matter where they live. City or town, country or city—your health and your life expectancy should not be determined by your postcode.

My electorate has a number of flashpoints. The town of Ouse, in the central highlands, lost its GP before the last election, and a number of attempts to revive the service have failed. Other options are now being looked at, including a nurse-led service and the possibility of mobile services. In Bridgewater, we learnt in September that IPN—a division of Sonic Healthcare, which last year posted a $1.5 billion profit—will be closing the Greenpoint medical centre in December. News of the imminent closure understandably put the community in a tailspin. There are 8,000 patients on the books, many of them low income with compromised health. Books of the closest alternative GP services are full. The service simply must continue. If it is not run by IPN, it must be run by someone else.

The Tasmanian Liberal health minister tried to handball the entire issue to the federal government until I reminded him that under Commonwealth-state health agreements the state does have a role to play in primary health delivery. Many people have spent many hours on the phone in recent weeks, seeking a solution to ensure GP services continue at Greenpoint when IPN leaves. I am pleased to say those efforts appear to be bearing fruit. Fingers crossed, there will be good news soon.

In the north of my electorate, Campbell Town lost its GP when the clinic ended its contract to deliver medical services to the local hospital. Happily, that's since been resolved, with an alternative provider, Ochre Health, now providing services both to the hospital and to the community. Evandale lost a GP, but a new service has now started, with an enthusiastic new GP. Westbury lost a GP but is managing with alternative services.

In the north-east of my electorate, the town of St Marys learnt in August that the legendary Dr Cyril Latt was hanging up his hat. Dr Latt had been contracted by the Tasmanian health service to be the doctor at the St Marys Community Health Centre for many years, and he also provided a separate service to the community as its GP. When the THS failed to provide the extra support he'd asked for—he was working 24/7, one of the most dedicated and selfless people you'll ever meet—he reluctantly resigned, which meant the town also lost its GP. The state government has now contracted Ochre Health to provide health centre services, and it's been confirmed this week that Ochre will also provide a separate local GP service. That's good news, but Ochre is a fee-charging for-profit service while Dr Latt bulk billed, so it's going to be a change for the community. Dr Latt's an absolute legend, and I only wish the THS had valued him higher and had given him the support he sought. I wish him and his wonderful family all the best for the future.

On the east coast, in the Glamorgan-Spring Bay municipality, cohealth has taken on a contract for the local council owned medical service, which runs out of the towns of Triabunna and Bicheno. Cohealth is a non-profit, multidisciplinary service, and I'm particularly excited to see how it goes, especially as it was awarded a Primary Care Rural Innovative Multidisciplinary Model grant by the Australian government.

Turning to the south of my electorate, I am pleased to report the new Brighton GP clinic is under construction and looking great; I'm very excited to see it going up next to the bowls club. That project was made possible through a $1.5 million commitment that I was able to secure for the community during the 2022 election, and the Albanese government is delivering on that promise. That surgery will ensure more capacity for medical services in Brighton, a fast-growing community full of young families.

Labor is the party of Medicare, and we are the only party committed to its long-term future. The sad fact is that we are dealing with 10 years of Liberal failure and neglect in health care. We are dealing with that. I would like to say a big thankyou to all the health professionals in my electorate who work in the regions and choose to provide quality health care to people in the regions. We need more of you. So come to the regions.