GRIEVANCE DEBATE Medical Workforce

Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (21:30): This is probably not going to seem remarkable to a number of my colleagues in here who share the position of having been elected to this parliament for the first time. As new members we all bring a new degree of energy to our respective seats—I am not going to talk the other side up too much because obviously we have a job to do in a few years time!—and we do think very much about what we can do in the time that we have to improve the lives of our local communities. Certainly, as a new MP and having grown up in the area I have the privilege and great honour to represent I have seen things improve over time, but we all share ambitions to improve the lives of the people that we represent, our neighbours and friends. We just want to see good things done in the electorates that, again, we have the honour of serving and speaking up for.

In my electorate of Chifley, in Western Sydney, infrastructure is a big concern, particularly infrastructure that allows for the provision of quality health care and, through a range of different things, improving services. But it is also about making available infrastructure that allows us to make a real difference in the healthcare options that people have. I am really conscious of it, being in an area of Western Sydney where people are not flush with funds and where transport, which many of us take for granted, is sometimes not easy. The public transport options are limited and, in the suburbs that fall within Chifley, rates of drivers licence possession are amongst the lowest in Sydney, so getting around is a real issue. If we can provide health care that is easy to access and easy to get to, that makes a real difference.

Last year, I was really pleased to have in the Chifley electorate Parliamentary Secretary Butler, as he was then, visiting the Mount Druitt Hospital. The hospital forms part of the UWS campus and, along with Blacktown Hospital, is located in the biggest local government area of New South Wales, Blacktown, a huge area that is growing all the time and that has definite need. A few weeks ago, on 19 October, it was fantastic to have the Prime Minister out to open the nearly $21 million University of Western Sydney clinical school. It sits in Greenway, but its benefits will spread across a range of Western Sydney electorates. I recognise that a number of my colleagues were present, including the member for Parramatta, the member for Fowler and the Minister for Health and Ageing, who has been a very strong advocate for this facility. The facility has a special purpose: through the school, about 100 local doctors will be trained. The beauty of this is that, by training up doctors in the area they come from, we will have a greater ability to retain doctors in Western Sydney. I know from representations I have made to the minister that we have a number of areas that are classed as 'districts of workplace shortage', where it is simply impossible to get local doctors in. In fact, we require overseas trained, appropriately qualified GPs to come in because we cannot get people there. The eastern part of Sydney tends to act as a magnet for people with medical expertise, which means it is really hard, particularly in high population growth areas, to get GPs. This school will fill a special need and will also ensure, for example, that third-year students are provided with full-time attachments to hospitals. That will be another huge boost to the hospital system but will also provide those students with an excellent opportunity to learn and to build their skills, and to form a greater attachment to the region they have come from. Hopefully we will retain those critical skills in our region.

There has been a range of big investments in health care in the Blacktown-Mount Druitt area. I mentioned earlier that last year, when he was parliamentary secretary, Mark Butler visited Mount Druitt Hospital. He announced a $4 million investment in equipment there, including for the provision of subacute beds and paramedic equipment, but also to replace an old, four-slice CT scanner with a 64-slice one.

This is great news for a hospital that occupies a special place in the Mount Druitt area—so much so that its role is recognised. It is one of the hospitals that scores exceptionally well when it comes to the feedback from people who have been through the hospital for treatment. In fact, close to 90 per cent of overnight patients rated their care at Mount Druitt Hospital as good, very good or excellent. That hospital, which was—and this is probably noteworthy, given recent events—opened by the Queen, has been providing quality health care, as rated by the people who need to go there. It is really a jewel in the crown of Western Sydney health care—particularly in an area where people, as I said earlier, are not necessarily flush with funds and find it difficult to get access to transport. They have, right in their neighbourhood, a hospital that, when they need it, should they need it, gives them really good health care, and they rate it as such.

As I suspect you have gathered in the short time I have been speaking, getting access to affordable, accessible health care is an absolute priority for me. It is a passion that I bring to this place. But it would not necessarily match the passion and commitment that a number of people bring to the table in Western Sydney—people like Associate Professor Peter Zelas; people like the GM of the hospital, Dominic Dawson; people like Dr Graham Reece—or match those of the range of medical practitioners and doctors and nurses who dedicate themselves to bettering the lives of people in our area or help ease the burden that people suffer when their health is not as good as they would like it to be.

But, much as the hospital itself is doing very well and is well received, nobody would want to be complacent. Again, some do it tough, and I would never want to see a situation where they sacrificed health care because they did not have the money or the access. We certainly do have things we can do to help people and take the hospital to greater levels of performance in being able to provide something of incredible value locally.

One of the things I feel strongly about—and it is something that my predecessor, Roger Price, felt strongly about, as does a colleague in the local area, the state member for Mount Druitt, the Hon. Richard Amery—is the need to get a licence for a magnetic resonance imaging machine to be situated in Mount Druitt Hospital. Blacktown Hospital has an MRI already. In fact, its imaging department is seen as the most efficient in the system, particularly in Western Sydney. The MRI machine itself does not exist; we do not have a licence that will allow for a machine to be situated in Mount Druitt Hospital. As much as there has been an improvement via the provision of a new CT scanner, MRIs—and I know that you, Madam Deputy Speaker Bird, have pushed for this in your local area—are one of the most efficient pieces of equipment for helping diagnosis and treatment. We need this licence.

I have written to the Minister for Health and Ageing on this. I have also met with her about it. A few months ago I kicked off a petition to demonstrate the huge community demand that exists to see an MRI machine situated in the suburbs where, as I said, people do not necessarily have money or transport options. I do not want them sacrificing or foregoing treatment or being able to access this type of equipment because they think they do not have the money or the ability to travel long distances to get the help they need. Next week I will be undertaking a range of mobile offices across the electorate of Chifley where I will have that petition present. I will be calling on people to throw their support behind this campaign, so that we can indicate to the minister for health that there is huge demand in our area for this machine and to ensure that a hospital that is doing great things can do even greater things into the future, and people can continue to get the quality health care that they so richly deserve.

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Ed Husic MP
Federal Labor Member for Chifley


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