Tuesday, 17 October 2023
I rise today to speak about health care in regional Australia. In Australia today, the further you live outside of a major city, the worse your health outcomes are likely to be. A big part of that is timely and affordable access to care. For a woman living in the most remote parts of Australia, life expectancy is 19 years shorter than her city counterpart. That is not acceptable. I know just how hard it has been for people on the Central Coast of New South Wales in my electorate to be able to see a doctor, especially for urgent care. Having worked at Wyong Hospital for almost 10 years, I've seen, firsthand, people who have had to delay or avoid accessing care, ending up in the emergency departments of our already clogged hospital systems, waiting hours for care.
Our government is delivering on its commitment to health care, especially for people living outside our major cities. On the Central Coast, I was pleased to stand with my colleague Dr Gordon Reid when we announced locations for two Medicare urgent care clinics on the Central Coast. The Peninsula Medicare Urgent Care Clinic will be established at Providence Medical Umina, and the Lake Haven Urgent Care Clinic will be established at Coastal Lake's Medical Practice in my electorate. Importantly four our local constituents, both urgent care clinics will start seeing patients before the end of this year. Medicare urgent care clinics deliver on our government's commitment to make it easier and more affordable for people on the Central Coast and right around Australia to get the urgent treatment they need from highly qualified doctors and nurses, while taking the pressure off Gosford's and Wyong's hospital emergency departments. Our urgent care clinic is going to offer the high-quality urgent care that our community deserves, seven days a week and fully bulk-billed. Over half of the presentations to Gosford and Wyong hospital emergency departments are non-urgent or semi-urgent. It's such an important investment in our community, and I'm so pleased that these clinics are two of 14 Medicare urgent care clinics that will be established across New South Wales, and part of 58 around Australia.
I also want to mention one of the most significant investments that has been made in Medicare. After a decade of cuts and neglect by the former government, it has never been harder or more expensive for Australians—particularly those living outside the major cities—to see a doctor. Peter Dutton froze the Medicare rebate for almost 10 years when he was health minister, and the Liberals ripped billions of dollars out of primary care, which caused gap fees to skyrocket. That's why the centrepiece of the May budget included our commitment to make Medicare stronger, and from 1 November the government's historic investment in Medicare will triple the bulk-billing incentive—the largest increase in the incentive in the 40-year history of Medicare.