Interview – Nine Perth, Today show

Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister

ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: The COVID peak may be over for WA, but the health system is still in a state of crisis. Perth public hospitals have been forced to declare more than 500 Code Yellows in the past year. And for more we’re joined by Federal Member for Perth, Patrick Gorman. Nice to see you this morning, Patrick. I know a lot of this comes down to capacity, right?

PATRICK GORMAN, ASSISTANT MINISTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER: Yeah. And we’ve had huge pressure on our health and hospital system over the last few years, the biggest pressure they’ve faced in my lifetime. And if you look at what the state government here have done, they’ve added about 530 new beds since the start of the pandemic. That’s the equivalent of adding an extra entire Royal Perth Hospital into the health system. But we know that those pressures are continuing to come through. We see that in these reports that you just referred to. So one of the things that we’re doing is the federal government, because we do believe in actually taking responsibility and doing what we can to make sure people can get the health care they need when they need it, is putting across the country 50 Medicare urgent care clinics. One of those will go near Royal Perth Hospital in my electorate to make sure that we can lift the pressure off the emergency departments and also make sure the patients get the fastest possible health care.

LANGDON: The problem you’ve also got then, and you would have known in the paper this morning, when you look at what’s happening with bulk billing and GPs and they’re not able to cover their costs, so they’re moving away from bulk billing. This has been the problem where you have a lot of the pressure on our hospital system because if you can’t get in and see your doctor, what do you then do? You present at the hospital. So that’s something you guys need to look at too.

GORMAN: Yeah, and we’ve got to be really upfront about the real crisis that has been covered up for a few years in terms of what’s happening in bulk billing. Bulk billing is declining. That means that people are paying more out of pocket to see a GP. A GP that they might have previously been able to see with no cost at all. Now they’re paying maybe $10, 30, $50 on top of the bulk billing piece just to go and see a GP when they’re doing the right thing, staying out of our hospital system so we can get those Medicare urgent care clinics done. If we can be upfront about the challenges of what’s happened in bulk billing, because those reports, if that becomes true, that we get down to 30% bulk billing, that’s huge pressures on family budgets and huge pressures on our hospital system.

LANGDON: I just think overall, our health system at the moment, it’s pretty scary. That idea that if you needed to call an ambulance and this isn’t just specific to WA, although it is a real crisis in WA. It is right around the country. I don’t know if anyone has faith at the moment that you call an ambulance and an ambulance is going to turn up.

GORMAN: Well, I say to all your viewers, if you need urgent, critical care for a life threatening emergency, do call an ambulance. Please use those health services. Do not hesitate, because it might be the difference between life and death. So I don’t want anyone to think that they can’t draw on those health services. But I’ll say one other thing, because there are a lot of pressures, as you outlined in our health system. The other one is in terms of people in aged care who are presenting in emergency departments. And that’s why, from next year, with the legislation that we were pleased to get through the Parliament just a week ago, we will, for the first time, have nurses 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, on shift in every residential aged care facility. Meaning, again, that we can divert some of those people who would otherwise present to our hospital system and make sure they get care as quickly as possible.

LANGDON: Where are you finding those nurses from?

GORMAN: So as the Minister has outlined, we’ll need to get to this point. There’s about 20 per cent of aged care facilities who currently don’t meet the standard. We need between eight and 900 nurses. Some of those will come from overseas migration. Some of them will come from people who maybe aren’t currently in the workforce at the moment. We know there’s a lot of people who’ve chosen, for a range of reasons and challenges, not to enter the workforce and not be in the workforce at this point in time. One of those challenges is the challenge of getting the care that people need for their children. So we’ve got a lot of different things in the care economy that we need to get working a lot better so that people can get the care, health care and support that they need.

LANGDON: Okay, WA Mines Minister Bill Johnston reckons gender quotas on mine sites would help fix the chronic problem of sexual misconduct in the sector. Do you agree?

GORMAN: Yeah I do. Clearly, what’s happening in the mining sector isn’t working. These reports of awful assaults and rape on mine sites like this shouldn’t be happening. These are multi-billion dollar businesses. They have huge HR departments. The fact that we haven’t been able to resolve this through all of the resources currently available to the mining industry means that we do need to go further. This idea is really worth the major mining companies investigating because it’s just completely unacceptable.

LANGDON: I mean, the thing is, for me, right, as a female, knowing that this is what happens, I would have no desire to go to a mine site till I knew that these issues were sorted.

GORMAN: That’s right. And when we’ve got all of the workforce pressures that we have in our economy right now. To not be drawing on the full capability of our workforce is not in our national interest, it’s not in our economic interest and it’s not in the interest of these companies. My wife has worked in the mining industry for a number of years. I want my wife and the people who work in the industry to be able to go to work safely and come home safely. That’s something that the Labor Party has fought for, for decades. It’s previously been about sort of physical safety, but the principle of people having a safe day at work doesn’t change, whatever the challenge. So I think this is great that the Minister has put this on the table and we do need to make sure that we look at all of the tools available to us to make sure that everyone who works in the mining industry has a safe day at work.

LANGDON: Agree. And look, I know that Albo is back from his holiday today. Do you know did you have a good break?

GORMAN: Look, I could only go from what I’ve seen on social media, on the Prime Minister’s Instagram account and other things. It looked like he had a delightful time in Broome. It’s great to see him holidaying here in the West and I’m sure he’ll come back with all the energy he has doing his job as Prime Minister.

LANGDON: Well let’s hope he is well rested because there is a bit going on. Very much appreciate your time this morning Patrick, thank you.

GORMAN: Thank you for having me on the program.

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