Interview on 2GB Drive with Ben Fordham

Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's radio interview on 2GB Drive with Ben Fordham regarding Media reports on after hours care and euthanasia.

Page last updated: 22 September 2017

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21 September 2017

E&OE…

Topics: Media reports on after hours care; euthanasia

BEN FORDHAM:
Minister, good afternoon.

GREG HUNT:
And good afternoon, Ben.

BEN FORDHAM:
Why’s there this discrepancy between GPs that we go and see on their own premises and those who come to ours?

GREG HUNT:
Well there’s a program for after hours consultation at homes, which is a very important one. That means that people who have urgent needs get access to GPs after hour and the Commonwealth pays quite an additional supplement.

What appears to have happened here is that very large numbers of non-GPs, they’re still doctors but they haven’t been trained up to the level of GP in terms of their formal qualifications, have been employed to deliver these services and issues and allegations that have been raised in The Daily Telegraph today are two-fold, but the quality of care has not been to standard and that this urgent claim has been raised which brings with it a lot of money when some of these items are not urgent.

So I’ve ordered an immediate investigation through what’s called the Medicare integrity division of the Commonwealth Health Department. And they’re serious allegations, I don’t make any judgements. Everybody is entitled to present their case but there are a lot of complaints that are on that public website about…

BEN FORDHAM:
You do your best to stay across these things but I mean it’s unrealistic to suggest as a Federal Minister that you’re going to know every single thing that’s going on and every single person that’s employed.

I’ve spoken about one of these doctors previously on A Current Affair, a bloke who came here from America. He had his medical licence revoked in the US for alcohol and cocaine use.

He now owns a tattoo removal parlour in Darlinghurst and he works for the National Home Doctor Service five nights a week and I think it’s a fair question to ask isn’t it? How does someone like this get a start in Australia when they’ve been punted in America?

GREG HUNT:
Well that is a fair question and that will be one of the issues raised. We’ve got over 30,000 registered GPs in Australia and they do a fantastic job.

This issue that’s been raised today is not about the GPs, so for most people it’s probably hard to understand that you actually qualify as a doctor but then to be registered as a GP you actually have to do additional training.

This is about people who have not gone on and done the additional training who are entitled to claim but what has been created here is a whole industry around using what was meant to be a stand-in for GPs or to give GPs support.

And so we’ve had deep concerns expressed by the College of General Practitioners and deep concerns expressed by Professor Bruce Robinson who is the head of the Medicare Taskforce.

BEN FORDHAM:
Alright, well look, we’ll leave you to look into that. I know that you’ll report back after that’s done. Let me switch to another issue.

There’s been a very lively discussion on the radio this afternoon, an emotive discussion as well about euthanasia. We have private members bills being debated in Victoria State Parliament, and also the New South Wales State Parliament too and this has happened today here in our state of New South Wales.

Where do you stand? And I ask that in two capacities; one as the Federal Health Minister, but other as Greg Hunt and just another citizen of Australia. Where do you stand on the issue of euthanasia and has your view changed over the years?

GREG HUNT:
Sure. So it’s a fair question. Firstly it’s a matter for the states. We don’t intend to intervene. We think that these are rightly questions for state law. So I respect the right of each state to make their opinion and we won’t be…

BEN FORDHAM:
Mind you I do remember being a young political correspondent in Parliament House when the Northern Territory brought in voluntary euthanasia laws and that was overridden by the Commonwealth.

GREG HUNT:
Yeah, there are different rules in relation to the territories and the Commonwealth…

BEN FORDHAM:
Alright. Where do you stand? Are you for or against euthanasia?

GREG HUNT:
I am cautious is the honest answer because the AMA, and I’ve spent a lot of time working with the president, Palliative Care Australia and some of the other medical bodies have said that they believe that we have to improve our palliative care services, so dealing with those who are in pain and dying before we would consider a further step and so I think one of my tasks is to ensure that we do have improved palliative care services.

So that’s my focus. So my personal view is caution but with immense deep, absolutely profound awareness with regards to the pain and the challenge that so many people have.

BEN FORDHAM:
So in other words, if it’s introduced in New South Wales or Victoria then so be it?

GREG HUNT:
Well we won’t be seeking to intervene as a Commonwealth. That’s a matter for those states and under the Constitution I absolutely respect that fact that it’s their decision but nor are we looking to take any steps to advance this at the national level.

BEN FORDHAM:
Am I right in saying you can’t? You can if it’s a territory, you can’t if it’s a state?

GREG HUNT:
No, it’s unlikely that we could but we’re certainly not going to seek to do that.

My task as the national Health Minister is to focus on improving the access to and range of palliative care services for those who have pain, who are near the end of life and I think that that’s the right and appropriate thing for the Federal Health Minister to do.

BEN FORDHAM:
Well said, good on you. Thanks for coming on, we’ll talk to you soon.

GREG HUNT:
Thanks a lot.

(ENDS)

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