SALLY BRYANT, HOST Mental health care is an ongoing issue right across the region and the impact of the pandemic has only heightened the need for help for many of us and many in our communities. Now, it turns out there's a new and a free mental health care service that's going to be made available for regions, including the Riverina. It's called Head to Health service. Joining me to talk a bit about what it is and how it's going to work is the Assistant Minister for Health, Emma McBride, the Member for the Federal seat of Dobell. Good morning.
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER Good morning, Sally. Good to be with you.
SALLY BRYANT, HOST Thank you for joining me this morning. What is the service going to look like?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER Head to Health is a new service. What Head to Health means is that someone can walk in for mental health support, it's free, they don't need an appointment, they don't need a referral, and they will see multidisciplinary team based care from psychologists, occupational therapists, social workers and counsellors. And I'm really pleased that in a joint commitment in partnership with the New South Wales Government, that we'll be rolling out 22 adult clinics across the state, four up and running already, four are due to later this year, and seven more are due to open next year including Head to Health Wagga Wagga.
SALLY BRYANT, HOST So where else around New South Wales are these going to be based.
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER So at the moment we have a Head to Health in Penrith, Lismore, Canterbury and the Central Coast. Across this year, four more will be open, or are due to open in Liverpool, Shellharbour, Paramatta and Hawkesbury. And we have seven more that are due to open, or are scheduled to open next year, including in Coffs Harbour, Dubbo and Wagga Wagga.
SALLY BRYANT, HOST So where is the funding coming from for the service?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER Initially the service was Commonwealth funded and now there is a partnership with the New South Wales Government which will mean that more services will be rolled out to more places in New South Wales. We know that there is a growing demand for mental health care and support. And we know that that demand requires something that is between what you would receive at your GP the crisis that would lead someone to ending up in an emergency department. So this Head to Health service fits between, their a clinic, as I said, that provides free walk-in mental health care and support and what makes it really accessible for people is that they don't need an appointment, they don't need a referral, they can walk in and receive that care and support they need.
SALLY BRYANT, HOST Doctors all across Australia say they're unable to bulk build right now, they just can't afford to do it. People can't see doctors as often as they need to and mental health is part of that need as well. Is there going to be any movement in increasing the Medicare rebate? I mean, we say we have a publicly funded health service, but if you have to pay for a doctor's appointment it is a bit of a furphy isn't it?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER As the Health Minister, Minister Butler, has said, making access to GPs and primary care more accessible and affordable is a top priority of our government. Minister Butler stood up the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce just after we were elected working very closely with the AMA, with the Medical Collages, and some of those recommendations have been already spoken to, but it is front of mind to make sure that every Australian wherever they will be able to access health care when and where they need it and more affordably.
SALLY BRYANT, HOST Because it's pretty frightening isn't it, if you look at what is laughingly being referred to as the 'cozzie livs' at the moment. People are having to decide whether they pay their rent or their electricity bill, whether they pay off their car, and then I'm assuming that medical care is probably slipping down the list.
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER Cost of living is front of mind for our government as we as we head into the budget next week, particularly easing the cost of living for the most vulnerable Australians. But there will be, as we've seen already, cheaper medicines which came into effect on the first of January, cheaper childcare, there'll be a responsible cost of living measures that provide relief without adding to inflationary pressures.
SALLY BRYANT, HOST There's a story in the news in early AM this morning about the need to review the way doctors, the hoops they have to jump through to get locally qualified, what is the government doing on that front?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER Already medical practitioners and other health care practitioners are a top priority through our immigration and migration process. There has been feedback including from medical practitioners and Medical Colleges about the processes that medical practitioners who are qualified in other parts of the world need to go through in order to practice in Australia. Those are necessary for Australians to know that they're having healthcare practitioners that will provide quality care that will provide safe care, but I understand that there is consideration about how they work in practice to make sure that we can streamline access to medical practitioners right across Australia.
SALLY BRYANT, HOST The other issue that has been raised locally too is the need for cancer treatments to be bulk billed.
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER I'm a health care worker myself and I worked in a regional hospital for nearly 10 years, and the difference it made having a cancer care centre within the health district that I worked meant that local people, particularly regional people could afford care close to home, and that makes such a big difference when someone is going through their cancer journey. I know that there's lots of considerations going into the budget, including how to make health care more affordable for many Australians, but I'm not going to speculate on budget measures as we head into the budget just next Tuesday.
SALLY BRYANT, HOST Emma McBride, Assistant Minister for Health, very nice of you to join me this morning.
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER Thank you so much. Good to be with you, Sally.