House of Representative, June 23, 2014

Mr FITZGIBBON (Hunter) (13:42):  I have said in this place on many occasions now that the most recent budget was a terrible one for rural and regional Australia, and I think that is now a point without challenge. I was astounded to have confirmed on the weekend that the Hunter GP after-hours service will close—not 'may close' but 'will close'—next year if the government does not change its funding position. There is a fair bit of competition but, if this does not change, this will go down as the greatest betrayal of the Hunter region of all.

This excellent service has been operating for 10 years. It is saving money for the government. It should be the GP model for every region in Australia. Indeed, its call centre ensures that around 25 per cent who call with a problem do not go on to have primary care contact or hospitalisation. Maitland and other towns in the Hunter region will be in a devastating position in terms of doctor services, particularly after-hours services, if this decision goes ahead. I genuinely appeal to the government to reconsider its position and to save the GP after-hours service, restore the funding and give the residents the medical services they deserve.

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