Radio interview with Assistant Minister McBride and Rebekah Lowe, ABC Wimmera - 20 April 2023

Read the transcript of Assistant Minister McBride's interview with Rebekah Lowe on Aged care; Strengthening Medicare Taskforce; GP Grants Program.

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

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REBEKAH LOWE, HOST: Emma McBride is a Federal Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health and the Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention as well. She has recently been in Mildura. She joins us this morning. Good morning.

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

REBEKAH LOWE, HOST: You heard there Anthony Hogan, the CEO of Goodwin Homes at Donald, how many other rather rural aged care facilities are in the same situation?

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: What we know is that every Australian deserves dignity in aged care. I lost my own father to Young-onset Alzheimer's and my family had our own experiences of aged care and we want to make sure that every older Australian has the dignity and care that they need. From the latest data we know that close to 80 per cent of aged care homes will meet the 24/7 Nursing requirements. And as is in Anthony Hogan's experience, the department and the government are working side by side with aged care homes, to help them to meet the requirements and also to work with them including with exemptions for those that have valid reasons for not meeting the targets.

REBEKAH LOWE, HOST: You've heard of the terrible situation in Sydney with Wesley Homes of course and obviously people are looking for reassurance for their families who often have lived their whole lives in small towns. So any chance the exemptions will be extended further to remove the financial pressure? Just because people are old doesn't necessarily mean they are ill or need 24/7 Registered Nurse presents though, does it?

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, what we saw from the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care, and I know so many Australians were shocked and saddened to see some of the revelations from the Royal Commission, that we need to restore dignity to aged care. We need to make sure that every Australian in aged care has the dignity and support that they need. And as I said, the government isn't going to apologise for being ambitious about aged care and 24/7 nursing care because this is something that every older Australian and their loved ones and families deserve.

REBEKAH LOWE, HOST: Now let's move on. You've been in Mildura, you met with health providers there. So, what did you talk about with them? So what can your government do about that?

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: I was so pleased to be in Mildura and to be hosted by the Murray Primary Health Network and their CEO Matt Jones. I was able to hear from over 20 local clinicians, service providers and policy makers, including the local council and the hospital. And one of the things that I heard was that despite the challenges that people face in accessing care in more regional and remote communities, that there is such strong collaboration between the local healthcare providers and services, and they are really determined to work together to be able to make sure that every person in their community can have access the care that they need. There are big challenges, and these just didn't happen, this is really the result of nearly 10 years of neglect from the former government and it has never been, as I heard in Mildura, that it's never been harder or more expensive to find a bulk billing doctor. Well, just today, our government has announced $220 million in Strengthening Medicare GP Grants. These grants are up to $50,000 for general practices, to be able to enhance their digital healthcare capabilities, to upgrade their infection prevention and control arrangements. I've heard from local general practices right around the country, from Gordonvale in far north Queensland to Mildura in your community in Victoria, and what general practitioners are looking for, is that increase in support to be able to provide that quality care to their local community.

REBEKAH LOWE, HOST: Okay but GPs say the reason they don't bulk bill is because the rebate has not been increased. So how will this help this? How will this change the situation?

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: What doctors often talk about is the stability of their practice and being able to have that extra support. I've had doctors who say to me, 'I need to upgrade my vaccine fridge,' or 'I'd really like to improve our telehealth,' and what these grants will do, as I said, up to $50,000 depending on the size of the GP practice will help them to be able to make those improvements to their infrastructure, both digital and physical, to be able to help meet the changing needs of people and healthcare provision in our in our communities.

REBEKAH LOWE, HOST: But how does that help the paying public? They're getting to a stage where people are $50 or more out of pocket because the rebate being about $38. So it seems to be that it's really the fact that the patient's the ones suffering here though.

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well this will also be, this is running alongside our Strengthening Medicare Taskforce. The government stood up the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce just after the election. And there is $750 million earmarked towards the recommendations from that taskforce. They're being worked through the budget process at the moment to make sure that there's investment in the right kind of measures that will boost access and affordability for people living all around Australia but particularly in regional and remote communities.

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