Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention - doorstop - 1 May 2024

Read the transcript of Assistant Minister McBride's doorstop at the Thompson Institute on the opening of the first National PTSD Research Centre; investment in better models of care.

The Hon Emma McBride MP
Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
Assistant Minister Rural and Regional Health

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JOURNALIST: How amazing is it to see this facility up and running now?

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: It is incredible to be here today at the official opening of Australia’s first National PTSD Research Centre. This investment of over $8 million from the Commonwealth, on top of philanthropic funding and building on the important work that the Thompson Institute has been doing here on the Sunshine Coast for Australians, will make a really big difference.

I'd also like to acknowledge the University of Sunshine Coast, the Chancellor, for the long-standing interest that he has had in this work, particularly with his experience in the armed forces. And to acknowledge the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Helen Bartlett, for the work that she has done in setting up this Centre. 

And we are so privileged in Australia to have recruited one of the world's leading researchers and clinicians in PTSD in Professor Allan Burnett. As you've heard, the work that he has done is ground-breaking. His innovation in reconciliation therapy is something that has benefited people in trauma across the world - in France and, soon, in the Ukraine. So, we are so privileged to be able to have here, in Australia on the Sunny Coast, one of Australia- one of the world's leading researchers and clinicians translating from the lab to care right here. 

And we know that the benefit that they will make to the more than one in 10 Australians who live with PTSD and to answer some of those big questions. Why are women more impacted than men? Why do some people respond to medication and other people respond to other therapies? Big questions that we're grappling. We have come, we have made major leaps forward in the understanding and the treatment of care of people living with PTSD, but there is much more to do and this investment at this Institute will make a big difference.

JOURNALIST: Minister, just going off topic here, but the National Rural Health Alliance is calling on the Federal Government to invest in better models of care for those living in rural Australia due to recent AIHW data. What will or is the government doing to deliver better healthcare services in the bush? 

MCBRIDE: It's so important. With my responsibilities for rural and regional health, and I started out my work as a pharmacist working in regional communities, I know just how important it is to have the right models of care, the right kind of investment to support that, and, the benefit that makes to local people. We know that for the millions of Australians living outside of our capital cities that, traditionally, access to care has been harder. So, what we're doing is work working across the whole of the pipeline. 

We've invested in more Commonwealth-supported places - 100 additional places for medical students studying in our regional campuses. We've also invested in more placements through the John Flynn Program because we know a quality placement with the right kind of supervision will make a medical student much more open to working in regional Australia. 

We've also introduced a single employer model. The single employer model will mean that doctors in training can transfer their benefits across from their training in a hospital setting through to working in primary care. 

We've seen, we know that there is much more to do, but we are working on a pipeline across medical students, students in training, GP practices. 

And one of the biggest investments we've made is $3.5 billion in tripling the bulk billing incentive. And what we have seen is that bulk billing was in freefall across Australia, but since this investment we've seen a boost of more than 2 per cent nationally in bulk billing. But we've seen that higher in parts of regional Australia - more than 8 per cent in Bendigo and regional Victoria, close to 6 per cent on the Central Coast of New South Wales in my own community. 

We acknowledge there is much more to do but we are working on doctors in training, we are working for medical students. We're also wiping the university debt of doctors or nurse practitioners who choose to live and work in more regional and remote parts of Australia.

JOURNALIST: The Alliance also proposed a solution being the Primary Care Rural Integrated Multidisciplinary Health Services is something that you would consider?

MCBRIDE: We are working very closely and in strong collaboration with the Rural Health Commissioner, with the Rural Doctors Association, with the AMA and their rural division. We are listening closely and working in strong collaboration because it's in the interest of government to make sure that all Australians have quality healthcare closer to home.

There is what is known as IMOC grants which are investigating innovative models of care. And that's something that we know that we have seen, particularly accelerated through COVID – innovation, where there's unique models of care. Point of care testing are just one example of where we've seen innovation that started in the bush and has benefited across Australia.

So, we're very open to working in different models of care. And there's a recent funding round for innovative models of care and there'll be more communities where they can have a place-based local response. Because what I've seen across Australia as the Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health is that local solutions that are place-based often the most effective and impactful in resolving these gaps in care, and making sure that every Australian can have quality care closer to home. 

JOURNALIST: Back on topic again. Would you just like to comment on, you know, what the Centre will mean for Queensland as a whole and PTSD research? 

MCBRIDE: This Centre is remarkable and I should acknowledge Andrew Wallace, the Member for Fisher here, for his advocacy and ongoing commitment, and the former government for their investment in this Centre.

What this Centre will mean is that we will see translational research. As the professor has said, we will see- from the bench side to the bedside, we will see innovation and that rapid translation of cutting-edge research into clinical practice so that we can answer those big questions that we grappling with. Why is PTSD more prevalent in women than men? Why do some people respond to medication and other people respond to other therapies? Why do some people see improvement, but then see a relapse? 

This is so important to us here on the Sunny Coast and right around Australia. And particularly as a state that's very impacted by natural disasters, we know the impact of bushfires and floods and cyclones and what that has on individuals and communities, especially our first responders. And we want to make sure that our first responders, who have a much higher prevalence of PTSD, have the early intervention, the right kind of support and care to recover and to thrive and continue in their really important work in our communities.

JOURNALIST: How important is it this is actually in a regional area, given that we often hear about the different medical needs and mental health needs of those in the bush to have a centre like this in regional Australia, regional Queensland?

MCBRIDE: It is so exciting to see this strong investment from the Commonwealth in regional Australia. As we've just discussed, the further you live outside of a big city the worse your health outcomes are likely to be. That is unacceptable. It has to change. 

For a woman my age living in the most remote parts of Australia, their life expectancy is sometimes 10 years shorter than their counterpart in a major city. And that's before we start talking about their quality of life living with chronic and complex conditions including mental health. 

We need to see research in the Australian context and we need to see it through a regional lens because that's where we'll understand the particular unique challenges that people living and working in regional situations face - whether that's isolation; you know, a lack of wraparound support; an environment that should be better for them. So, I think what this research will do is bring that rapid translation of cutting-edge research through to clinical support and care. And seeing it in a regional centre will mean a big boost in our understanding of what particular unique impacts and challenges facing people living and working in regional centres and a rapid acceleration in improvements in supporting care. 

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