Minister, can I ask when we will be able to see details of the action plan to ensure easy access to abortion services in all Queensland public hospitals and HHSs?
Minister for Health and Ambulance Services:
Certainly I am keen to see an expansion of the services that we do provide. The decriminalisation of abortion was just one very important step in this state, but it was the first step. It was disappointing that Marie Stopes chose to walk away from the services in our regions. We have been working very hard in relation to how we fill those gaps but, quite honestly, I do not want to just fill the gaps they left behind: I want to see an improvement across our HHSs as far as services. That does not mean our HHSs will be the ones that directly provide those services on each occasion. We partner with the private sector as well and other providers when we can do that. As long as the service is available, that is what is most important.
I know that for surgical terminations the majority of women still have to travel to Brisbane. I am very grateful that some of our HHSs like Townsville have committed—from memory, I think it is around $1 million—out of their operational budget this year to ensure they are providing these services. I know that Central Queensland is reintroducing those services. That replaces what Marie Stopes removed, but I do want to see more services provided and more accessibility because we know that timing is essential around these issues. We also know that it is sometimes very difficult for people who need terminations to leave their homes because their pregnancy might not be known by their partner and they might not want them to know, and if they are travelling away they have to explain why they are going to be away from home. There are a lot of complex factors around this. We are looking at reviewing all of the HHSs. I have asked all of the HHSs to look at what services we can provide and how we improve on them.
It is an ongoing journey. We have to deal with a whole lot of issues within the health system in relation to surgical terminations that we have not done before. We have to deal with conscientious objectors as well. We have to look at the skill set and expertise we have in each of those HHSs and how we ensure we are putting patients first.