CHARLIE MCKILLOP, HOST: Local GPs feeling the strain both the work pressure and the financial pressure. It's real for GPs right around the region. And you know that because it's increasingly difficult to get an appointment with one and when you do as the figures show fewer and fewer are being offered the opportunity to bulk bill that service which is the promise of our universal health care system. You are hearing from those doctors who were talking to media in a busy Gordonvale street yesterday with reporters including our own Alex Chambers from ABC Far North. The Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health, Emma McBride, it sounds to me Minister that you are going back to Canberra with a very long list of ideas there if the Treasurer Jim Chalmers, is looking for ideas on how to ease the squeeze on our health system. It sounds like you've got plenty of ideas.
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: Charlie, I was so pleased to meet with Dr. Lisa Fraser in her practice in Gordonvale yesterday, and also to hear from Dr. Rod Catton as well. What makes me optimistic about the future of our regional and rural health care is doctors like Lisa and Rod, the commitment they had to their patients and to their community and the quality care that they're providing. And yesterday at the practice, I was able to meet a young GP registrar, Sarah, and she said to me what attracted her to working in a regional community was a placement she had with a doctor and where she saw that in a rural community you can make an impact that you can really change lives and that's what makes me optimistic about the future of rural and regional health care.
CHARLIE MCKILLOP, HOST: But unfortunately, Sarah is only one of 10 per cent of medical graduates who now leave their degree with an aspiration of becoming a GP, that must be a serious concern.
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: It is, and I'm a pharmacist myself and I've worked in health care, and it was one of the main reasons that I put my hand up to run for parliament because I saw dedicated capable staff under enormous and growing strain, and from the nine years of the previous government, the neglect we're now seeing and it starts in the outer suburbs and continues across Australia where people can't get into a doctor, are waiting weeks for a routine appointment and where Medicare bulk billing rates are dropping.
CHARLIE MCKILLOP, HOST: What are the practical things that you can do and that you hope will be in the budget that's going to ease things up for these doctors?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: Minister Mark Butler stood up the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce because it is one of the top priorities of our government to make sure that wherever you live, that you can get access to timely, affordable and quality care. And that Strengthening Medicare Taskforce is backed by a $750 million fund, which will go to the recommendations to make sure that health care is accessible and affordable. We've also started with junior doctors from the first of January this year. If you're a doctor who chooses to practice in a rural or remote community, your HELP debt will be wiped. And we've heard from the department that 800 doctors are likely to take up that opportunity. We're also looking at the single employer model so that you can have a portability of entitlements from the state health system through to working in general practice. So there's some practical measures that were put into place already.
CHARLIE MCKILLOP, HOST: Federal Assistant Health Minister Emma McBride is your guest on ABC Far North. So far, some of the things that you've done, Minister haven't been all that popular with GPs. You've just mentioned that you come from a pharmacy background yourself but making it easier for pharmacists to issue scripts for a wider range of medical problems, for example, that's gone down like a lead balloon with some GPs did that come up yesterday?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: It wasn't something that was raised yesterday, but I did have the opportunity yesterday to visit some pharmacies including Alive Pharmacy and Wholelife Pharmacy to see to meet with pharmacists who have enrolled in this trial in far north Queensland. And if your starting point is patient care, and looking at accessibility and affordability of care, I can see why looking to the top of scope of practice is something that particularly in regional and remote communities will mean that people can get timely care that avoids hospitalization for UTIs , which are one of the main reasons that someone would end up in an emergency department that are avoidable and treatable.
CHARLIE MCKILLOP, HOST: Hang on, what are UTIs?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: Sorry, urinary tract infection.
CHARLIE MCKILLOP, HOST: Oh, gotcha. So that's the kind of scope of the medical issues that pharmacists increasingly now are going to be able to deal with. Is that the problem that the doctors have? Is that this is a band aid? It's not a not fixing the issue, which is that they ought to be seeing these patients, not pharmacists.
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: What we're looking at is we need to make sure that all health practitioners can work to their full scope of practice, and we need them working in team based care because we know that's the right kind of care. So I would like to see physiotherapist, dieticians, all health care practitioners to be able to use all the skills and training they have to make sure that every Australian, wherever they live, get that timely and quality care
CHARLIE MCKILLOP, HOST: Assistant Minister McBride, I doubt that you are about to preempt or try and steal the Treasurer's thunder on my program one month out from him delivering his first federal budget but we were speaking with the new chief executive of the Cairns hospital yesterday. She's getting down to the nitty gritty of planning the transition and what it might look like to a Cairns University Hospital. What does your Government intend to do to make that a reality and on what timeline?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: I had the chance just earlier in the week to visit Townsville University Hospital, at the moment, the only tertiary hospital in northern Australia. And what our government is very determined to do is to work with the state government, to work with the hospital and health services, to make sure that there's the right resources, the right type of care for people right across Australia, particularly in the most remote parts of Australia. So I'm sure Minister Jason Clare and Treasurer Jim Chalmers have this front of mind to make sure that every Australian can get access to quality and timely care. We set up Medicare, or us universal health care is our top priority and we know that it's in a really difficult state and it's something that we're realistic about and we need to turn around in a safe in a safe way.
CHARLIE MCKILLOP, HOST: Federal Assistant Health Minister Emma McBride, thank you very much for being with us on breakfast.
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: Good to be with you Charlie.