Debates Day 3 - Thursday 1 May 2003
Parliamentary Record 11
Debates for 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005
Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Thursday 1 May 2003 surgery; that is a category which has been given to me by the clinical people in the hospital. I am sorry if he does not recognise that, but I am afraid they do recognise it. Once again, he has brought up this issue of the private hospital. I do not know why the CLP keep bringing this up. It is such an embarrassment to have put $ 1,2m into what is a white elephant. They knew perfectly well that it was going to be impossible to get an operator for this private hospital because it was only for 15 people. I have been told that they even knew that it was going to be impossible beforehand, and they still went ahead and built it. If there had been an operator, of course we would have continued with that operator and assisted them in whatever terms that the previous government had put in place. But there was no operator and, when we looked into it, we were going to have to put in at least $ 1.5m of public money were it to go ahead. The Alice Springs Hospital is where we put public money. The Alice Springs Hospital is where we would like to put public money. We do not put money into things that should be for commercial operators; that is what commercial operators do. Governments put money into public hospitals, and commercial operators put money into commercial operations. We were left with this white elephant. We are hopeful, as I said last night, that it will be able to be used for clinical consulting rooms, so there will be some possibility of private patients being able to use this facility. Elective surgery lists have gone down at the Alice Springs Hospital. In March this year, there were far fewer than there were in March 2001. I suggest to the opposition that they might like to start dropping that line because it could very embarrassing to them. I would now like to talk about things which I know are of interest to the whole of the Territory and, particularly, to all Centralians. The health of indigenous people is one of the most serious and long-standing social issues we face in the Territory. Indeed, the very dimension of the problem has led to some adopting the attitude that nothing can be done to improve Aboriginal health. I do not accept this position. This government is committed to making a difference to the health of indigenous communities, and we are committed to taking the next step. Today, I would like to briefly outline a number of initiatives that the government is taking to make those improvements. The Primary Health Care Access Program is fundamental to our commitment to improving the health of indigenous Territorians. This program is also called PHCAP. The Northern Territory government and the Commonwealth government, together with the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliances of the Northern Territory, AMSANT, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, ATSIC, are working together with Aboriginal communities to develop better primary health services and provide more choice for communities on how those services can be delivered. Primary health care services will be improved with additional funding which allows for the provision of a higher level of services to all residents. A major focus of current PHCAP activities is in Central Australia, where it has been agreed that five Central Australian sites will be accorded priority. Consultants have been working with the five zone steering committees in Central Australia since before Christmas, and the consultants are currently finalising draft strategic health plans, together with options for the governance for each zone. It is expected that recommendations will be presented to the zone steering committees and to government for consideration in early May. In the meantime, in the northern half of the Territory, two further zones have been identified as a priority for further funding under the Primary Health Care Access Program. It is not possible to comment further on these proposals until such time as the Commonwealth Minister for Health considers them. However, I undertake to speak further on this matter in due course. It needs to be emphasised that under these arrangements, additional funds will be available for health services to each of the zones. The result will be greater resources for primary health care and, ultimately, better health for the whole community. I am keen to reassure non-indigenous residents living within the zones that the level of health service they currently receive will not be eroded under these new arrangements. The health services provided by zone health boards will be available to all residents of that zone. These arrangements mean that the merging health zones will be better resourced than their predecessors, and that is very good news for everybody. Renal disease is one of the most serious chronic conditions affecting the Northern Territory. Indigenous Territorians prevalence rates are 10 times the national average. In addition, the Barkly region has the highest incidence of end-stage renal failure in the Northern Territory. Despite this, until recently there were no haemodialysis services available in the Barkly region. Patients were required to relocate to Alice Springs to access haemodialysis. This had considerable social, emotional and cultural effects on the Barkly community, and increased pressure on already 3963
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