February 05, 2024

SCOTT LEVI, PRESENTER: Member for Shortland, Pat Conroy of course shares a boundary, an electoral boundary with Dobell, and is it fair to say Pat – good morning and thanks for joining us first of all – is it fair to say Mr Conroy that a lot of your constituents would see Wyong Hospital as their local? 

PAT CONROY, MEMBER FOR SHORTLAND: Oh absolutely Scott – and good morning as well, by the way. Wyong Hospital is the local hospital for many people on the Central Coast part of Shortland and so it’s really important that we relieve pressure on the Wyong emergency department, and also that we get the services on the northern Central Coast that we need. I have met with community supporters of Elsie’s Place and so I am really relieved that David Harris and the State Labor Government are really backing it in full-ball. 

LEVI: That’s great to hear for people going through that end of life journey in Shortland. And of course as the Member for Shortland, you’re back in Federal Parliament sitting for the local people, we will ask you about that today and what’s on the agenda. But last week we focused on the statistics regarding the uptake of bulk-billing and the bulk-billed federally funded Urgent Care Clinic at Umina where the Prime Minister held a press conference late last week. We’re going to check in with the stats and health of the northern end of the Coast where the Lake Haven clinic in Dobell opened just before Christmas. The Member for Dobell, Emma McBride joined us on the day of the opening live in the studio and mentioned that the clinic is also there to service the people of Shortland, the southern end of your electorate, well all of Shortland really, but it makes sense to go to the clinic that’s close to home doesn’t it? If you’re in Buff Point or Budgewoi or Doyalson which are fast growing areas, or anywhere close by, regardless of those electoral boundaries, that's your clinic, is that right?

CONROY: Absolutely. Other than politicians, people really don't pay attention to the boundaries of electorates.

LEVI: (laughs) that’s true.

CONROY: They live in towns and communities, and what they want are services. And that's why the Medicare Urgent Care Clinic at Lake Haven, at the Lake Haven Shopping Centre, is essential. It complements what's happening at the Peninsula Urgent Care Clinic, and across both urgent care clinics we've seen around 1,800 patients already helped, despite the fact that the Peninsula one opened in late November and the Lake Haven one just before Christmas. That's critical because they provide extended hours bulk billing services to families in our community - well everyone in our community.

And they also relieve pressure on the really overstretched emergency department at Wyong Hospital. I was amazed when I read the statistics that more than half of all the presentations at the emergency department at Wyong are for non-urgent and semi-urgent cases. They're the cases that this Urgent Care Clinic will really help relieve pressure from so that our hospitals can concentrate on really looking after those in acute need while someone who might have a son or daughter who's fallen off a skateboard can get an x-ray and can get the treatment from a GP that they need completely free of charge as well.

LEVI: So over a thousand patients already who probably would have rocked up at Wyong ED have now gone to the UCC?

CONROY: The figures aren't as high for the Lake Haven one because it opened a lot later. It's 1,800 across both Urgent Care Clinics, and in roughly the first month of the Lake Haven one over 150 people have gone through. And one of the reasons I'm on the radio is to raise awareness of the Urgent Care Clinic so people know it's out there, that you can go between 8am and 7pm on weekdays and 9am and 7pm on the weekend to the Lake Haven Shopping Centre and see a doctor for free to get those cases treated.

LEVI: Do you think once the word gets out, I mean, it's all about word of mouth. When someone has a good experience, they'll tell their mates and all of a sudden it'll gather momentum. You're going to see it running at capacity soon, do you think?

CONROY: Oh, absolutely. I'm very confident that as the word filters out and people realise other service - so for example, there's a medical imaging centre, an X-ray centre co-located so that you can get a lot more services. I've done a mail out to my constituents about it and I know Emma McBride's communicating as well. I'm very confident that it will start churning out the numbers. But 150 is a good start. That's 150 patients that either would have had to wait weeks to see their normal doctor, or would have had to present it to Wyong Hospital and clogged up the emergency department there. So I'm really happy about the strong start, and if the Peninsula Urgent Care Clinic is anything to go by which is a bit older, I'm confident we'll start picking up quite rapidly.

LEVI: We're speaking with the Member for Shortland, Pat Conroy about the Urgent Care Clinic at [Lake] Haven that's to service his electorate as well, in the southern end of his electorate particularly. What about GP availability in those places that we mentioned, you know, Budgewoi, Doyalson, Buff Point around the northern end of the Central Coast. How is that going?

CONROY: It's improving. We've got a long way to go, and I’m being very frank with people. We've got a doctor shortage and we've got a shortage of doctors who bulk bill. That's why the tripling of the bulk billing incentive was so important, and that's already having an impact. We've seen bulk billing rates lift quite significantly on the Central Coast, but people are finding it hard to see a doctor to get into a doctor. One of the things we took to the last election was to make the Central Coast what's called a distribution priority area. This is critical. There are three sorts of doctors who can be GPs. The two most common are Australian doctors who get scholarships, or overseas-trained doctors who go through the process to be recognised in Australia. Those doctors can only practice in areas that have a distribution priority, and for some reason, the Morrison government took that designation off the Central Coast, and that meant that we lost a lot of doctors overnight. One of the owners of the Lake Munmorah doctor surgery told me he lost half his doctors very, very quickly. So we've reversed that. That means that those doctors can start practicing on the Central Coast, and we'll see a build up of doctors over time. But that was a really important policy change.

LEVI: Speaking of Lake Munmorah who you mentioned there, we can confirm that that giant 400 plus tonnes of transformer for the Waratah Super Battery, the clean green energy facility, has arrived.

CONROY: Oh that’s wonderful. I was there at the sod turning with Prime Minister Albanese and the last State Government, and I am really proud that Lake Munmorah on the mighty Central Coast will have the largest battery in the southern hemisphere located there. And that’s a great example of us reusing our energy infrastructure to provide cheap and reliable renewable energy.

LEVI: Alright. Plenty to talk to you about, but you’ve got to get ready for the first day – it’s like going back to school. What’s on the agenda for Shortland in this parliamentary year?

CONROY: Well the most critical is getting the tax cut legislation through as soon as possible. These are the tax cuts that Prime Minister Albanese announced a couple of weeks ago, and they’re critical for the Central Coast. Our area - well every single Australian taxpayer will get a tax cut, and across the Central Coast, it's around 85 to 87 per cent, or 88 per cent in fact, of taxpayers will get a bigger tax cut than they would have under Mr Morrison's plan. So that means that the average tax cut will be around $1,500, and that's $800 more than what they would have received under Mr Morrison's plan. And that's really important because we know we're in a cost of living crisis. These tax cuts will help every single Australian, and that's going to be what Parliament is going to be all about over the next few weeks.

LEVI: All right. Mr Conroy, thank you so much for joining us, and we'll catch up with you again. There's plenty to talk about in your electorate.

CONROY: Absolutely, anytime. Have a great morning, Scott.