My electorate of Paterson falls within the Hunter New England Health District.
This winter, people in our region have been hit hard and early with influenza. At this time in 2016, there were around 400 cases of the flu.
This year, so far, there have been 1,200—quite a considerable rise.
While influenza can manifest with cold-like symptoms in some people, it is highly contagious.
The same virus that causes a respiratory infection or cold in one person could prove fatal to a person in a high-risk group.
It is times such as this that the importance of primary-care providers really comes under the spotlight.
You want to be able to get into your doctor.
I stand before you today to share the story of Dr Chander Kantta who runs a general practice in the suburb of Woodberry in the electorate of Paterson.
Woodberry is a quiet little suburb and a terrific place between Newcastle and Maitland.
It has very little in the way of services, and a large percentage of its population of 2,700 people are people who have known the knocks in life. They come from some disadvantage.
Dr Chander, as he prefers to be known, is the only doctor in this community, and he does a terrific job.
Woodberry is almost located equidistant—20km—from both the Maitland and John Hunter hospitals.
Public transport from Woodberry to the John Hunter takes up to one hour 50 minutes and around an hour to get to Maitland.
These services are, of course, intermittent.
Dr Chander's practice is, not surprisingly, fully booked.
As such, he made the decision to expand to better respond to the health needs of our community—and good on him for doing that!
He located a premises just two doors away from his current site at 30 Kookaburra Place, Woodberry.
This six-room surgery offers provisions for three doctors, a nurse, a pathology outlet and a dietitian.
Dr Chander employed a female doctor, arranged for the services of a dietitian and locked in the pathologists.
This new expanded surgery, however, sits idle.
There is no room for the female doctor to operate nor the dietitian nor the nurse.
Meanwhile, Dr Chander pays rent on the expanded, empty premises as well as his existing practice.
Wait for it—it is extraordinary—he cannot get his Telstra service moved to the new address.
In May, Dr Chander contacted Telstra to move his telephone service, which comprised two landlines and one fax internet connection, two doors down.
In Dr Chander's words, he could stretch a wire between them—and he might as
well put a couple of tin cans on the end of it while he's at it.
When he contacted Telstra in early June, he received an order number and was told it would be acted upon before the scheduled relocation.
When this date grew close, with no action, he called them again.
He was told the order had been cancelled.
The telephonist couldn't tell him by whom or why.
He went through the process of raising a new order, only to be told it would take two weeks to action.
Dr Chander called my electorate office, extremely concerned, and a member of my team raised a constituent escalation request with Telstra on Friday, 28 July.
One week later, Telstra called to inform him that he would be contacted again on 11 September, with the view to an assessment on 18 September and commencement of work on 26 September.
In a nutshell, Doctor Chander will wait four months to move his phone two doors down.
Mismanagement of his case will mean that his new expanded, refurbished premises sits idle for months.
He will pay rent, insurance and electricity on two premises.
The female doctor he had appointed to join his practice is only able to work one day a week instead of four.
This delay to a critical community service provider is totally unacceptable.
From what my team and I can gather, Dr Chander is in a Telstra-NBN catch 22.
The Woodberry service was recently switched over to the NBN, but NBN activation can only take place at a premises with an existing service.
Therefore, Dr Chander's service must be moved to the new address before an NBN order can be raised.
Regardless of the circumstances, this situation arises through no fault of Dr Chander,
and it is unacceptable that he and the members of the Woodberry community are being inconvenienced in this way.
I again say to this government: what you have done with the NBN is quite deplorable and largely inexplicable, in many ways.
It just goes to show that the multi-mix fix is certainly not that.