QUESTION: People in the Illawarra have more health problems than the average Australia but less access to doctors - how would you fix this?
Glenn Kolomeitz (ALP) Senate candidate for NSW
As in other rural and regional areas, there is a shortage of doctors in the Illawarra. Under a Labor federal government, the number of GP training positions increased significantly. Under the former NSW Labor state government, the number of intern positions increased significantly. It is incumbent on both state and federal governments to ensure the impetus of increasing intern and specialist training positions continues. This would assist medical graduates from UOW to train and remain in the Illawarra. While in recent years we have been appropriately reliant on importing overseas trained doctors to fill the breach, the new influx of Australian-trained doctors will reduce such reliance.
John Flanagan (Non-Custodial Parents Party)
The national health budget in 2012-13 is $74.5 billion. These funds are mainly spent just trying to fix the physical and mental health problems after they have occurred. We would fix the reasons behind many of these physical and mental health problems in the first instance.
These reasons include: family court and child support problems; family violence order bias; false sex abuse claims; gender discrimination.
The need for additional doctors would not only be reduced, the people of the Illawarra and the nation would also benefit from this change of direction.
Helen Wilson (Greens)
Access to doctors (and dentists) needs to be more affordable but this might not be the only way of solving our health problems. The Greens would put more resources into preventative health. We'd promote healthy eating and active transport, and would restrict alcohol and junk-food advertising.
The Mercury reported that the major burdens on our health system are aged care, chronic disease and mental health. These lend themselves to community solutions: better support for living at home, for chronic issues like pain management and for mental health conditions.
Greens health policies address the gap between city and country services.
Sharon Bird (ALP)
Illawarra residents deserve access to good, quality, affordable healthcare.
Federal Labor has invested in our local hospitals. We've invested $12.1 million to build a new Illawarra Cancer Care Centre and $5 million to build a new clinical teaching and training facility at Wollongong Hospital. We have a fairer funding system for hospitals.
Federal Labor is investing more in doctors and nurses. We've invested $950,000 in upgrading local family GP clinics in my electorate. This has meant expanding facilities so more patients can be treated by local GPs.
And we have improved Medicare bulk billing and increased PBS-listed medicines.
Philip Clifford (Liberal Party)
The Coalition will invest in Australia's medical workforce and prepare the health system for the demographic changes ahead. Among other measures, we will strengthen primary care by providing $52.5 million to expand existing general practices for teaching and supervision and invest $119 million to double the practice incentive payment for teaching in general practice. We will also provide 500 additional nursing and allied health scholarships for students and health professionals in areas of need as well as $40 million for 400 medical internships.
A healthier Illawarra means a stronger and more productive region. The last Coalition government delivered a world-class health system underpinned by a growing, strong economy, and we can do it again.
Christopher Atlee (Palmer United Party)
We have a policy that would inject $80 billion in direct funding to hospitals, including those in the Illawarra. We believe that people have a right to adequate and affordable healthcare. The Illawarra has been ignored as it is viewed as a safe Labor seat. Let's make it marginal.
Stephen Jones (ALP)
The previous Coalition government left us with a shortage of doctors and nurses so Labor quickly doubled training of health professionals.
We're getting results - UOW-trained doctors are now practising locally and bulk-billing in Throsby is now at 92 per cent - under health minister Tony Abbott, it was around 60 per cent nationally.
Unfortunately, Throsby is ground zero for diabetes - the integrated approach to healthcare driven by Medicare Locals - under threat from the Coalition - will help us deal with this.
New Cancer Centres, new PBS drug-listings, Medicare-subsidised MRI licences and expanded medical practices are providing better access to top-notch healthcare.
May King (Palmer United Party)
The Palmer United Party plans to federally fund hospitals directly - $80 billion in additional funding has been allocated in our policies.
We are committed to ensuring that local people in the Illawarra receive the best possible healthcare.
Wayne Hartman (Non-Custodial Parents Party)
The health system in the Illawarra has been neglected for a long time. More money from the federal government needs to be injected into the Illawarra health system. That money would employ more doctors in the Illawarra. Maybe it's time they built another hospital in the Illawarra region so more people could access doctors.
Peter Moran (Greens)
The Greens support medical schools in regional universities such as the University of Wollongong. Graduates from these schools are more likely to work in the area in which they are trained, thus increasing local doctor numbers.
The Greens made it a condition of support for the ALP government that dental services for children be able to be accessed through Medicare. Over three million Australian children now have access to dental services thanks to the Greens.
Mental health services currently account for approximately 6 per cent of the total health budget. The Greens will advocate for this to increase to more accurately reflect the prevalence of mental-health issues in the community.
We also support a greater emphasis on preventative health measures. All our policies have been costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office and are affordable and deliverable.
Gary Anderson (National Party)
Attract new GPs to needy areas through existing scheme that provides real incentives for the first three years of practice in rural and regional areas.
Paul Matters (independent)
In some metropolitan areas in Australia there is an over-supply of doctors leading to expensive over-servicing. The imbalance of regional shortages should be solved by a government medical manpower policy to ensure that GPs serve where they are needed.
This requires restrictions on over-servicing by the strategic issuing of Medicare provider numbers as an incentive for doctors to serve in the Illawarra. This is not the conscription of doctors but an extension of the powers of the Commonwealth that currently applies to international medical graduates.
Terry Barratt (Greens)
Health goes far beyond just visiting the doctor.
We will invest an extra $664 million in Medicare. This money will reverse cuts to Medicare made by Labor and supported by the Coalition; and invest $450 million in rural hospitals, $200 million in a Rural Health Infrastructure Fund and $20 million in grants for health services.
The Greens secured $4 billion last year for Denticare. So, 10,725 families in Gilmore will be able to take their kids to the dentist as easily as going to the GP.
We won't stop there - we intend to deliver high-quality dental care to everyone.
We will invest $550 million in rural mental health services.
Ann Sudmalis (Liberal)
Health is a big issue to everyone, and a strong local member needs to take these concerns seriously. The first step is to get direct feedback from those who are most impacted by policy changes.
In response to concerns about bulk billing and health costs, I hosted Shadow Minister for Health, Peter Dutton in Gilmore on Thursday to talk directly with the community about the Coalition's Plan for Health.
The Coalition has always recognised the need for health services in Gilmore and that's why the medical and nurses schools were established, and I would work with my state colleagues to review the method of calculating doctor shortages and areas of need, as this sets the number of doctors able to work in any given area.