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Doorstop in Sydney

Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's doorstop in Sydney regarding MRI licence for St George Hospital; Seat of Flinders; Julia Banks; My Health Record

The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Former Minister for Health and Aged Care

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Well, good morning everyone and welcome to St George Hospital here in Kogarah in the heart of the St George district.

St George Hospital is a very, very important institution for the people of my electorate and for the people of the St George region generally About two-thirds to three-quarters of the people who live in the Banks electorate rely on St George Hospital as their local hospital, and this is a hospital with a great reputation in our community.

It's been terrific to see all of the investment going into this hospital in recent years, including several million dollars of support just recently announced from the federal government for the Medical Research Foundation, which is attached to this hospital.

The great news today is the provision by the federal government of a bulk billing licence for the MRI machine here at St George, and what we've learnt today is that that will mean that many more people will be able to have access to those MRI services bulk billed; that the MRI machine will run for many more hours; and that many more local residents will be able to access those incredibly important MRI services at a bulk billed rate.

That is fantastic news for our area, something which is very welcome, and it's a demonstration of what you can do in the health system through a strong economy and the ability of governments to invest back into essential public services when the economy is strong.

It's great to have the Health Minister here, Greg Hunt, to make this announcement today, and I'll now pass over to Greg to make some further remarks.


Thanks very much to David; to Dr Derek Glenn, who's head of radiology, Director of Radiology, here at St George Hospital but a storied appointment with many other roles across the hospital district; Marcus Smith, who has the role of chair of the hospital district; and Vicki Manning as the Director of Nursing.

I've actually particularly pleased, Vicki, to see you here. My mother was a nurse; my wife was a nurse, amongst other hospitals, the Mornington Base Hospital.

So, I'm always very- I love the doctors, but I've got a particular sort of respect for the nurses. So thank you for everything that you and your team do.

David, an incredible local member. Obviously, a brilliant minister, but an incredible local member. He's been a passionate advocate for this MRI licence.

We're actually in the electorate of Barton and that's how much he cares about his area that he wants the service for people right across the St George region, and over half a million people will potentially benefit from a new MRI licence here at this hospital, which David has been supporting, is an amazing hospital.

I had the privilege of coming here to launch funding which David and others have fought for in terms of the Centre for the Microbiome, so for gastrointestinal health where St George is one of the national leaders.

We've seen the work in terms of ultrasound, x-rays, CAT scanners. But this MRI – the 3 Tesla MRI is the Ferrari of the MRI world, and what that is about? It's about being able to give patients better health, better access, better diagnosis.

So today, I am delighted to announce that as of 1 March, the federal government will support a new MRI bulk billing licence for St George Hospital, for the people of Kogarah, for the people of the St George district.

It’s a public hospital serving the public, delivering for the public. And what does an MRI do? It allows diagnosis so as to assist people – it could be cancer or cardiology, neurology, spinal pain, musculoskeletal issues.

So at the end of the day, this is about improving lives, improving access, and improving outcomes. And you can only do this if you do have a strong economy.

You can only do this if you can afford to do it because we've seen what happens in 2011 when they ran out of money with the previous government - they stopped listing new medicines.

We're in a position where we will always list new medicines and now we're able to deliver 30 new MRI licences around the country, at least.

And most significantly, right here, today, for the people of St George and the surrounding areas, a new MRI licence that will give that improved access, improved diagnosis, and improved outcomes. I might ask Derek if he would want to say a few things.

After that, we'll take questions on the MRI and then any other issues of the day.


Thank you, Minister. Good morning. This is obviously welcome news for St George and its patients. The reality of the situation is that once we've got a full bulk billing licence, we'll be able to run this magnet to extended hours.

This is the only public magnet for about 650,000 taxpayers in this district and it's very busy.

We need to run it to extract the best bang for buck out of the asset for longer hours.

This licence will permit us to have the revenue base from which we will then be able to do that and we'll be able to serve bulk billing outpatients rather than just have the instrument completely devoted to the inpatient services for the St George Hospital.

So, we’ll run outpatient services as well as inpatient services on this one instrument. Thank you very much. Minister.


Great. Happy to take any questions.


When will the licence come into effect?


The licence will take effect as of 1 March. So, within a few short weeks, patients from throughout the region will be able to access bulk billed MRIs for the first time.


Minister, what’s your response to Julia Banks’ decision to contest your seat of Flinders?


Look, I'll let other individuals explain their own reasons. For me, I'm passionate about the seat where I grew up.

It's where, as I mentioned, my wife worked in the local, not-for-profit charitable hospital, my children who were born in the hospital. My father and myself have been protectors and custodians of the Green Wedge, and so we're very passionate about this area as a family, and for me as an individual.

And whether it's been fighting for the clean-up of Gunnamatta Beach and helping to deliver that; fighting to protect Point Nepean and helping to keep that in public hands forever; protecting the Green Wedge; things- outcomes such as a new secondary college for Somerville, where we had a community campaign which we worked on for years and we were told it would never be successful.

And yet, as David knows, if you work with the community and you’re of the community and you’re for the community and believe in the community, you can deliver for the community. And now, we're turning to new projects.

I've just walked 500 kilometres over three weeks through 50 towns and 50 schools to raise awareness for autism, but to help build further the facilities for autism on the Mornington Peninsula with Abacus and Light Up Autism.

And now we're working for an upgrade for Rosebud Hospital, new facilities for cancer treatment on the Mornington Peninsula and to make sure that we protect that Green Wedge forever.


Can you guarantee the people of Flinders that you will run in this election?


Yes, absolutely. I have just walked 500 kilometres around my electorate and I did that because I’m passionate about it.

I believe in it. It’s my community; it’s where I grew up. I would never walk away from the area that I grew up in to try to represent another area and that's what we do.


Are you suggesting that Julie Banks has done that?


I'll let other people explain what they're doing but I know for myself, and I suspect David will make some comments, this is a sacred relationship that you develop with an electorate and by being of the community, and by the community, and for the community, you can deliver for that community and those of us - that's our track record, locally.

That's my track record of having fought for, worked with and delivered, whether it's in autism, environment, whether it's in health, whether it's the development- not just of the Somerville Secondary College, but we were told we would never get a Somerville police station.

The new facilities for athletics and for sports in Mornington and the Balcombe Grammar School in Mount Martha, these are the things we've been doing.

The Rosebud pool, which was a dream, which is now underway thanks to federal funding and the electrification of the Baxter line which we've committed to, but we still have to work, we still have to fight to make sure that that's completed.


Julie Banks running against you is a direct result of the leadership coup against Malcolm Turnbull last year in which you were an important participant and instigator. Do you regret that now?


Look, I always look forward and I think that's a very important position in life for everybody.

I think Scott Morrison is doing an incredible job. I think he has the potential to be the most extraordinary leader, not just of the Federal Liberal Party, not just of the Liberal Party across Australia, but of any party since John Howard.

And he's an incredible person and the people of Cook will also benefit- will benefit from this magnet. So for me, I look forward and others can explain their reasons.

For me, my reason for running for Flinders is because it's the community I was born and raised in, I attended Mornington Primary School.

It's the community that I believe in and we've worked together to represent and I’d continue to work with them if that's what the people of Flinders.


(Inaudible) the government has never recovered.


Minister, you have a margin of seven per cent; does the local - does the recent results of Victorian state election worry that that could be in trouble, you could be in trouble there?


I've always treated the seat as if there's a one vote difference. For me, every day, every moment is about engaging with the local people, you know.

It's a real privilege to represent an area and it's a great responsibility when you make that commitment to an area, you work with that area and you meet the people.

And as David does, you visit the stores. The other day, I was visiting the shops in Baxter and it was 40 degrees and we were talking to people who were pouring with sweat and with the local mower, the person who was doing the work on people’s mowers, about their business, about the need to electrify the line to Baxter.

There is a $220 million federal commitment; there's no state Labor commitment. And that's what being a local member is about; working with the community, identifying their needs and just as David has done here today, helping to fight for and to deliver those outcomes.


The government has never recovered in the polls from ousting Malcolm Turnbull. You now have former government MPs trying to oust government ministers from their seats. Are you telling the people of Flinders that that was still the right thing to do?


I'm saying that it's a privilege to run. I think that in Scott Morrison, we have somebody who is already making enormous steps forward, who is laying out an economic plan, which means that we can deliver essential services such as this.

And most significantly, you have a comparison and a choice here. You have a choice between $200 billion of taxes.

But in my area, what that means is over 8000 people will pay more than $2000 in additional taxes through the retiree tax. Flinders is the oldest demographic of any electorate in Victoria and will be one of the hardest hit by the retiree tax.

There's only one, only one party that will stop that retiree tax and that's the Liberal Party in coalition with the Nationals.


So just to be clear, it’s the right thing to do to get rid of Malcolm Turnbull?


All of us stand by our decisions. But most significantly, what this is about is I think we have in Scott Morrison somebody who compares with Bill Shorten.

Because remember this, Bill Shorten stopped listing medicines when he was assistant treasurer. He stopped listing medicines for schizophrenia, for endometriosis, for IVF, for asthma, for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

I think it's time that Mr Shorten answers why on his watch as assistant treasurer, he blew the economy, blew the budget, and then stopped listing medicines.

Because perhaps of all of the different things that I've had the privilege to be involved with, the listing of new medicines for cystic fibrosis such as Orkambi, the listing of new medicines for spinal muscular atrophy, the listing of new medicines for breast cancer such as Kisqali; that might be the most important thing that I ever have the privilege of being involved with.

And each day, I talk with people in my electorate who benefit. Only yesterday, I had a lovely text from a dad whose daughter had just started on Orkambi for cystic fibrosis, attend school in Rosebud, and that's real, that's what matters, that’s what's important.

Delivering the MRI outcomes, delivering the medicines outcomes; they’re the things that actually matter because that's about people's lives. It's not about us; it's about delivering for the people who need the help that you can only deliver if you've got a strong economy.


Julia Banks said that the voters of Flinders are angry at you because you were Peter Dutton’s wingman during that failed spill. Is that correct? Were you a part of that then?


Look, my approach has always been to ensure that we have a government that focuses on the people and that was the party room decision.

Most importantly, I think with Scott Morrison, as you go forward, you see somebody who is of the people, who gets the people, who fights for the people and who wants to deliver for the people.

So I respect the role of everybody and the differing views. I understand there are differing views.

But what really matters is that whether it's new medicines, whether it's an upgrade for the roundabout that's required to help with the congestion at the end of Jetty Road in Rosebud, whether it is action to protect Forrest Drive; you’re always working for and fighting for people.

So that's what I have to say.


Is Julia Banks a traitor in your view?


Look, I will let the individual in question explain her own actions.


So you’re definitely not taking the bonus (inaudible) for granted?


No, I've never done that and David doesn't. I don't, and as I say whether it was walking for three weeks and 500 kilometres around the electorate, to visit every school that was available and open at the time, to over 50 schools and over 50 towns.

And then all day to talk with people who wanted to talk about local issues and they can come and join you and walk with you, or visiting shops, visiting local communities.

I'll be out again tomorrow doing exactly what I do once I'm back in my own area. That's just an enormous chance to engage with, learn from, and represent the community and to work with your own community.

And I think if you come from a community, that's how you’re best able to represent that community. Thanks very much.


News Corp- just in your portfolio, News Corp has reported today that ambulance paramedics can't even access My Health Record.

What is the point of this $2 billion dollar system if it can't even save your life in an emergency?


Well I- actually Derek had some very strong views on the importance of electronic records, but this hospital is connected. Ryan might have.


Paramedics are not connected, that was the point.


With great respect, they hadn’t been part of the system legally until very recently.

So what we're seeing is we've now got over three quarters of hospitals, over 80 per cent of GPs, 84 per cent of chemists. And we’re starting from a base where the system didn't exist.

I spoke with some international representatives yesterday who said - what do you expect the participation rate will be? And I said well, look, our advice will be approximately 90 per cent and they said that's incredible.

Globally, that's an unbelievable system. So it's always building and we're always expanding.

I might ask Derek and then Bettina McMahon, who's the chief operating officer from the ADHA, to specifically comment on that. Derek, on the importance of electronic records?


The issue from our point of view- I'm a medical imaging specialist obviously, is that medical imaging has been done in a variety of places and currently they're not well connected.

So very often people pitch up to a hospital department, having had medical imaging done somewhere else and then the imaging is repeated.

Now for some types of tests, that's not such a big deal but if you've ever had a CAT scan, getting your CAT scan repeated is a big deal. It's a lot of radiation. It's another dose of contrast.

It's a whole lot of trouble to go through. If we can get the results in a clinically relevant time from the other source, find out what the previous CAT scan showed, and use that in the delivery of care in a timely way, then we can avoid test duplication.

And that's the key. Unless you start building systems which allow you to integrate that data across multiple platforms, across multiple different types of providers – private practice, public practice, hospitals, clinics.

So that it's all rolled together focusing on the patient journey - the single individual, then you are stuck with the system we have now where we're doing test repetition and additional cost and inefficiency in our system, where we could have got that useful management information from checking a result which was available somewhere else where it's already been done.

But the patient in front of us can't tell us and the doctors don't know. For the delivery of timely care they then go straight to the instrument they have in the department where they are and they do the test again. We've got to stop that.

We've got to be smarter and the way to do that is to build integrated informatics systems. It’s tough.




Thank you. Since paramedics have become registered health care providers just recently, we're now working with states and territories to connect up those systems to the My Health Record.

In the meantime, paramedics have regular contact with busy emergency departments such as the one here at St. George where it's required and appropriate for them to access information from the electronic medical record system here which is connected to the My Health Record.

So where it's appropriate, they can already have a secure line of communication with the hospital to do that.

Not forgetting that the paramedics’ primary role is to stabilise the patient so that they can be safely transported to hospital, and it’s here in this facility, and facilities like this around the country, where people access their My Health Record to provide appropriate and informed care.

And we've got people here from the emergency department who are using the records every day and their electronic medical record to provide better care and safer outcomes for Australians.

Thank you.


But is there (inaudible) given that access, right, so is there a time frame or deadline for that access to be fully (inaudible)?


We're working with every state and territory. So in New South Wales here, every hospital is connected.

This one here is already sending pathology test results up to the My Health Record and test reports from diagnostic imaging machines such as the one we've seen today.

So each state and territory has different timeframes. We're working with those; New South Wales is quite advanced. So we're looking forward to connecting up those paramedics as soon as possible.


So, in essence.


Last question.


Nobody in history had brought this forward or allowed the paramedics to be registered. Now they’ve just been registered, and that’s one of our great achievements in working with the states.

And, you know, Bettina and her team I want to say thank you. We're really proud of that. This will actually allow them to be part of it, so the very thing you're seeking wouldn't have been possible without My Health Record.

The very thing you're seeking wouldn't have been possible without the registrations.

Both of those have been brought into being and so the very outcome to which you're looking will now be possible because of what we're achieving.

I just want to ask Ryan, as a frontline ED specialist, I think one of the finest in the country about the way in which you're working with patients and medical records and how that electronic access can help you and the patients most importantly?


Yeah, sure. So I mean, I can speak to the My Health Record from an emergency department perspective.

Often patients come to the emergency department, they either don't know what their health problems are or don’t know what medications they're on, and having a way to access that information in a sort of time efficient manner in a critical care environment like the emergency department is very important.

I had a patient actually just on Tuesday that was at Canterbury Hospital with a seizure and we were then able to access her MRI scan, her medical and clinical notes in an efficient manner, which allowed her to be treated in a more appropriate manner when she came to our department.

So we’ve found it very important and we'll continue to find it very important.


Okay. Thanks very much.


Thank you.


And just very quickly, it's the last day to opt out. Can you tell us- give us an update on how many Australians have done that?


With respect that's incorrect. You can opt in or opt out at any time in your life. So you can opt in or opt out at any time in your life.

This simply means that the record formation process is completed. And our guidance – we don't have final figures yet because they'll have to be reconciled from the outset – I thought it would be an outstanding outcome, even at the limits of what might be possible if we were to have 90 per cent participation.

At the latest guidance I have is that we are on track for that 90 per cent participation, which was at the upper and outstanding end of what we thought was possible.

So it looks as if we're likely to exceed all of our participation expectations, which for the health of Australian patients, just as Ryan has explained and Bettina has explained, I think will be a tremendous step forward but most importantly, it's everyone's choice and it's a choice they've got throughout their lives.

Thank you.


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