Transcript of Doorstop at Melbourne, Victoria

Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's doostop at Mt Martha, Victoria regarding Media reports on after-hours care, same sex marriage and Bairnsdale ulcer.

Page last updated: 21 September 2017

PDF printable version of Transcript of Doorstop at Melbourne, Victoria (PDF 255 KB)

21 September 2017

E&OE…

Topics: Media reports on after-hours care; same sex marriage; Bairnsdale ulcer

GREG HUNT:
I am deeply concerned by reports today about potential substandard quality and potentially inappropriate Medicare billing claims under the after-hours service.

I have instructed the Department of Health’s Medicare integrity division to begin an investigation immediately.

I’ve just been informed that the company has now been notified, and these claims are about two critical things. Firstly, adequate best quality patient care. It has to be about patient care first and foremost.

Secondly, the claims about improper and inappropriate claiming for what are called urgent items, there is a widespread question that has already been raised by the Medicare Taskforce.

I expect that Taskforce to provide recommendations for change and the Government is minded to accept such recommendations on what we’ve heard early on, but I have today launched an investigation through the Medicare integrity division of the Department of Health.

JOURNALIST:
When did you first find out about these claims, and do you know anything about how long this has been going on for?

GREG HUNT:
So these claims have been put to us by the newspaper and I think they deserve to be investigated.

The Medicare Taskforce has also raised similar concerns, the company has denied it and they are entitled to put their side.

But the AMA and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, two of the most reputable medical bodies in the country, have their concerns as well. So this is a moment of reckoning.

We want a guaranteed high quality after-hours service which is overwhelmingly led by GPs. At the moment, what we see are claims that there are questions about quality and there are questions about the integrity of the billing process that have to be fully investigated.

JOURNALIST:
How can people have any faith in these after-hours services if there are for example under qualified people that are the go to?

GREG HUNT:
Well, there are many high quality GPs who do offer after hours services and that is something that any member of the public should inquire about, will they be seen by a GP, when they are seeking these after hours services.

We have said to the sector that reform is coming. This particular organisation has strongly resisted any reform but these claims are deeply serious, deeply concerning, have to be investigated, and will be investigated.

JOURNALIST:
At the moment, is there any kind of vetting process for the people that are working on these programs?

GREG HUNT:
Everybody has to be qualified as a doctor, but because of a long standing rule, not as a GP, now the Medicare Taskforce is coming forward with recommendations which would change the way the incentive structure works, would improve the quality of protection and I am very very drawn to what I am told are the likely recommendations for reform for better patient care and greater integrity in the billing process.

JOURNALIST:
How long would you expect this Taskforce review to take?

GREG HUNT:
Well I have spoken to Professor Bruce Robinson, a former dean of Sydney Medical School, so there could be no one more qualified in Australia and he is expecting to put down the report of the Taskforce in the coming weeks and we will respond quickly.

In relation to the specific investigation into the National Home Doctor Service, that will take as long as is necessary for them to be able to present their case, and for the Department of Health’s Medicare integrity division to fully investigate all claims.

JOURNALIST:
(Inaudible) the AFL has recently pushed for the yes marriage equality, what are your views on it?

GREG HUNT:
Well, obviously I have said publicly that I support the yes campaign. I support everyone’s right to express a view, whether it’s yes or no.

So personally, I support their right to their view. Personally, I happen to agree with their view.

The great thing, though, about democracy is people can express views in either direction. But frankly, the AFL has been a social leader on Indigenous participation or women’s participation, and now on same-sex marriage, so I say good on them.

JOURNALIST:
And do you think other sporting clubs should come forward and share a position on the issue?

GREG HUNT:
I think it’s a matter for each club and each sport to determine whether they want to express a view, and then feel free to express that view. So I won’t be giving advice to individual clubs or sports.

What I believe in is the right of everybody to express a view, respectfully, and I have to say the AFL has come forward in a good-natured and respectful way.

I think they’re model of how people can participate in this national debate and it’s up to each individual sport, each individual club, each individual whether they want to participate and if they do they have a right to express their view but I encourage everybody to express their views respectfully and in a good-natured way, exactly as the AFL has done.

JOURNALIST:
Does it stand the same for the Australian Olympic Committee?

GREG HUNT:
As I say, I respect the rights of each individual sport to determine whether they do or don’t want to take a position but where people do take a position they’re entitled to express their view one way or another. I happen to be for yes, the AFL happens to be for yes. But the great thing is they’ve done it in a really respectful way.

JOURNALIST:
Just on another topic we’re covering. You may have seen the petition asking you to try and get some more funding for this flesh-eating bacteria that appears to have increased significantly in cases, certainly in Victoria. What’s your response to her and what she’s asking of you?

GREG HUNT:
So, I’ve spoken with Ella and her father Ty who’s also a very experienced medical professional and her mother is as well. She’s a very brave young lady who’s been through three operations and some very, very painful time. She’s in a much better place now.

I have instructed the Chief Medical Officer to work with Victoria on looking for additional research proposals. The Commonwealth has provided $2.4 million in research funding for inquiring into Bairnsdale ulcer, the particular bacterium in question.

But I am not just open to, I am very focused on our ability to provide additional resources and I hope that there will be a new proposal under the National Health and Medical Research Council by the Victorian authorities.

JOURNALIST:
So that would be for more money funding to look at this specifically?

GREG HUNT:
Correct. Here we are on the Mornington Peninsula. What we’ve seen is a migration of the number of cases from the Bellarine Peninsula to the Mornington Peninsula. And so this concerns me both as a Health Minister, and as a local member, and we want to get to the bottom of what is causing the issue and perhaps most significantly, how best to treat patients urgently.

Fortunately, Ella has had the most outstanding medical treatment, and she’s on a path to recovery and she is on a path to recovery when I spoke to her and her father last night but my view is that additional research needs to be undertaken and if a proposal comes forward we will look at that very sympathetically.

JOURNALIST:
(Inaudible) the government is aware of the spike in the number of these cases?

GREG HUNT:
Yes we are. Obviously public health management at local level is the responsibility of the state and local district hospital authorities and they have been doing a good job and I want to commend them on that but going to the core question of cause and fundamental treatment, the view of the Chief Medical Officer is there was a case for more research and so we have invited the Victorian medical health authorities to put forward a proposal for that.

JOURNALIST:
One last question going back to the AFL supporting same sex marriage, do you think sports and clubs can actually pro equality and against discrimination and against same sex marriage at the same time?

GREG HUNT:
I’ll leave that question to individual clubs in question.

(ENDS)

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