Radio interview with Assistant Minister McBride and Jeremy Jones, ABC Capricornia – 21 May 2024

Read the transcript from Assistant Minister McBride's interview on ABC Capricornia which covered Rockhampton's new Medicare Mental Health Centre, Medicare Urgent Care Clinics and the health workforce.

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

Media event date:
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General public

JEREMY JONES, ABC CAPRICORNIA: Well, when it comes to mental health, maybe it's something you've dealt with, or often it can be a relative or a friend that you're worried about. Well, joining us this morning to chat about mental health in the region is the Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, also Rural and Regional Health, Emma McBride. Minister, thanks for joining me this morning.

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: Good to be with you, Jeremy.

JEREMY JONES: And what's brought you to Central Queensland?

EMMA MCBRIDE: We know that many people are experiencing distress, and often they're experiencing that earlier in life, and it's more complex. So what the government is doing with my responsibilities for Suicide Prevention, Mental Health and Rural and Regional Health is, and I'm very pleased to announce that we'll be opening up a Medicare Mental Health Centre in Rockhampton by the end of the year. What that centre will do will take away the barriers. You won't need a diagnosis, you won't need a referral and you won't need to pay. So you'll be able to get on the spot mental health support, treatment and care.

JEREMY JONES: And this clinic is part of an Australia-wide rollout of 61 centres. Just for in Queensland – why was it that Rockhampton was picked?

EMMA MCBRIDE: We're looking at and we're working closely with the respective governments, so the Queensland Government, to look at communities where there needs to be a boost in access to care and where we are seeing distress in those communities. So really pleased today to be announcing one of the 61, building on the successful Head to Health model, will be opened in Rockhampton later this year. And in the Budget, we've also increased the funding by almost $30 million to make sure that at every centre, someone can get access to a GP, psychologist or psychiatrist on-call, because we know that people with more complex needs need to be able to access those type of clinicians to get the wrap around support and care. So very pleased to see that boost in the Budget this year.

JEREMY JONES: You mentioned on-call – how does that look?

EMMA MCBRIDE: So what that will be will be, we know we've got a shortage of psychiatrists and psychologists in Australia. But also most of them tend to live and work in our major cities. So this will be a national service where psychologists will be available. So this will be available by over the phone, where someone will be able to speak to a highly qualified and trained psychologist, GP or psychiatrist to get that support and care locally.

JEREMY JONES: And skill shortages across Australia in many regional areas [indistinct] continue to see- are struggling to attract qualified health staff. You mentioned many in the city there as well. Your domain there as well around regional health as well. How- what's being done to sort of address staff shortages here in the health area?

EMMA MCBRIDE: Well I'm really pleased to let your listeners know that there'll be an extra 20 medical students through Commonwealth supported places that’ll be studying end to end, the whole of their medical training, in Rockhampton and surrounds. That's because of an additional 10 places from the Commonwealth and 10 that have been transferred from a metro campus of Queensland University. So a good partnership between Central Queensland University and UQ to make sure that we have more doctors training in the regions.

We know that doctors or nurses or allied health workers that train in the regions are much more likely to choose to live and work in those regions. We're also wiping the HECS debt or the HELP debt of doctors or nurse practitioners who work in communities like Rockhampton to- for doctors who are open to it to reduce another financial barrier that might prevent them from being able to work in communities like this. So a big boost locally of medical students in training. We're also boosting the number of what are called John Flynn Program, which is essentially a placement program where a medical student then has the opportunity to get a long placement in a regional or remote community to get a deep understanding of what healthcare looks like in those type of communities. And we know that that's another thing that makes them much more open to living and working and continuing their medical career in those communities.

JEREMY JONES: You're hearing from the Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention and also Rural and Regional Health, Emma McBride. And the Medicare Urgent Care Clinic opened at the former Mandalay Medical Centre in December. Do you know how that's going?

EMMA MCBRIDE: I'm going to be visiting there later this morning. But what we have seen already is that more than 5000 visits to the local Medicare Urgent Care Clinic, most of those visits, or a quarter of them, are children under 15. So we've seen that it's a really good alternative, particularly for parents or caregivers, to waiting long hours at Rockhampton Emergency Department. Having worked in a hospital myself, I know the demands that are under those hospitals and the dedicated staff that are working there. So what it means is that for a parent or a caregiver, they know that they can take their young person to the Medicare Urgent Care Clinic, get on the spot treatment and care. Mostly people are presenting with, as you would expect, minor sporting injuries, cuts, viral infections, rashes. So they can go to the Medicare Urgent Care Clinic, walk in without an appointment, free of charge, and be seen. And 5000 people have had that opportunity so far. And it is reducing some of the pressure on the stretched emergency departments so they can focus on that really life-saving care. We know that many presentations to your local hospital are what's considered non-urgent or semi-urgent. So this is giving those people the opportunity to go to the Urgent Care Clinic, get that care that they need right away.

JEREMY JONES: Well, Minister, thanks for joining us this morning.

EMMA MCBRIDE: Good to be with you.

JEREMY JONES: You're hearing there from the Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention and also Rural and Regional Health, Emma McBride.

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