July 04, 2024

I'm pleased to update the House on the latest commitment from the Albanese Labor government to strengthen Medicare and improve the health outcomes of people in my community. Last month, I was pleased to have the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, visiting the Shortland electorate, where he spoke with local GPs, pharmacists, healthcare workers and aged-care workers and residents.

While he was in the Hunter, Mark Butler announced that the Albanese Labor government would establish a new Medicare Urgent Care Clinic to service Lake Macquarie and Newcastle, taking pressure off the John Hunter Hospital's emergency department. Almost 40 per cent of presentations to the John's ED are for non-urgent and semi-urgent cases—in other words, cases where patients do need to see a doctor but don't necessarily need to go to a hospital emergency department.

That's where the Newcastle-Lake Macquarie Medicare Urgent Care Clinic will help out. It will be open for extended hours, seven days a week, providing care for urgent but non-life-threatening issues. No appointments will be required. And patients will be fully bulk-billed. Let me repeat that: fully bulk-billed. The aim is for the new Medicare urgent care clinic to be up and running in the next six to 12 months. I know this new clinic will make a big difference for the Hunter just like the Lake Haven Medicare Urgent Care Clinic has for the northern Central Coast. That clinic opened in December last year and is now seeing, on average, just over 300 patients per week, relieving pressure on Belmont and Wyong hospitals' emergency department. That's right: 300 fewer visits to emergency departments, completely bulk-billed at Lake Haven.

Importantly, the Newcastle-Lake Macquarie Medicare urgent care clinic will work in conjunction with the Hunter's GP access after-hours service, which the Albanese government saved and fully restored with $28.7 million in funding after it was cut by the coalition. This was a critical election promise I took to the last election, and I'm delighted to see it fulfilled and a much loved Hunter institution saved and renewed. Labor created Medicare and, after a decade of cuts and neglect from the Liberal and National parties, the Albanese Labor government has been working hard over the last two years to restore and strengthen the Medicare system. As well as investing in the Medicare urgent care clinics and saving the Hunter's GP access after-hours service, we've increased the number of GPs working in the Hunter and Central Coast by allowing overseas-trained doctors and Commonwealth bonded doctors to practise there. We've tripled the bulk-billing incentive for GPs—the biggest investment ever in bulk-billing—and we've frozen the cost of medicines on the PBS. I know there's more work to do, but I'm proud to be part of the Albanese Labor government, which is working hard to deliver better health care for people in my community.