In my speech I invited the Liberal Minister for Health to visit Wyong Hospital to "see the conditions of people's lives and why they end up in emergency.
"In my electorate of Dobell on the New South Wales Central Coast, people are doing it tough under this government. We have over 21,000 age pensioners and a youth unemployment rate sitting at 18 per cent. It is young families and older people that most need health care. And where is funding being ripped out of health care? In regional Australia.
"What people in regional Australia deserve is good, strong representation and a minister who cares about them and our community, not about spruiking PBS listings. One thing about spruiking PBS listings that particularly disturbs me as a pharmacist is: what about people delaying or avoiding filling prescriptions?
"You can spruik listing any drug on the PBS, but what if people can't afford to fill prescriptions? That is particularly a problem in regional Australia."
According to ABS data, one in 14 people—seven per cent of people—avoid taking prescribed medicine due to cost, and we know the rate of people skipping prescriptions is twice as high in the most disadvantaged areas as in the least disadvantaged; it is 10 per cent of people in the most disadvantaged areas.
See my full speech here
"This means that the cost of medicines is contributing to healthcare inequality in Australia.
"You can spruik listing PBS drugs, but if people can't afford them then someone will delay or avoid filling a prescription. I've been there in an outpatient clinic, where a mental health patient said to me, 'Which medication can I do without?'
"These are real people with major mental health problems who need proper support, and they're having to make this decision that no-one should have to make: 'Which one can I skip? Which one can I delay?'
"People are sometimes taking medication every second day, or they might get one prescription filled one month and another prescription filled another month. This is the state of health care in regional Australia.
"This minister just does not get it or does not care, and I haven't even got to vaccines, the national immunisation program and the outbreaks that are happening in communities yet. This minister is neglecting regional and rural Australia.
"I'd like to give you an example. The minister was spruiking MRI licences yesterday. The hospital in Wyong, where I worked, has a shell in the new redevelopment plans. The Liberals tried to privatise this hospital. First they tried to sell it off. Now they're going to introduce paid parking when there is no public transport. We know that in the redevelopment plans there is a shell for an MRI machine but no Medicare licence for an MRI machine."