Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg at the Gladstone Hospital's maternity unit. Photo Brenda Strong / The Observer
Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg at the Gladstone Hospital's maternity unit. Photo Brenda Strong / The Observer Brenda Strong

Manage your own health: Minister

SELF responsibility is what Health Minister Lawrence Springborg believes is needed to address the top five health concerns of Southern Downs residents.

Residents polled in a phone survey conducted by Medicare Local this year listed their top concerns as: obesity, drugs and alcohol, cancer, mental health and aged care services.

The survey of 2012 people in the region included 383 Southern Downs residents.

Obesity was the top health concern of 46% of Southern Downs residents, followed closely by drugs and alcohol.

Mental health and cancer tied with 35% each while aged care services were the top concern on 31%.

When statistics were broken down according to age groups, 53% of those aged 35-49 cited mental health as their biggest health concern, compared to 36% of people aged 18-34 and 34% of those aged 50-64 years.

The youngest age bracket listed drugs and alcohol as its biggest health concern while seniors listed obesity.

Mr Springborg said there was only so much the government could do to fix these issues.

"The State Government has spent tens of millions of dollars trying to get the message across that people need to eat healthy, exercise, drink in moderation and not smoke," he said.

"People need to heed the messages."

At the same time Mr Springborg said it was encouraging residents were starting to realise how big a concern were these health issues.

"A lot of this stuff comes down to self responsibility," he said.

"I have the biggest budget portfolio and 60% of it is allocated to preventable illnesses."

Mr Springborg said the public's concern regarding mental health and aged care facilities was a realistic one.

He said his department spent up to $1billion a year on improving mental health services.

"We are working to roll out increased services but people who choose to take alcohol and drugs are taking up resources," he said.

"There are mental health units full of people - some 100% full - who have underlying issues such as alcoholism and drug addictions," he said.

"There is no such thing as a harmless level of drug taking.

"People need to realise that they are in the driver's seat for many of these issues."

When it came to listing the biggest gap in the region's health care system, Mr Springborg was unsurprised access to GPs grabbed the top spot.

Mr Springborg said while the state government was helping to train more GPs than ever before, the federal government dealt with the location of doctors.

"We are working to fix the issue though," he said.

"Go back a couple of years and we were only training a couple of hundred a year- now we are training 700 a year."

While admitting there was still work to be done, Mr Springborg said health care in the Southern Downs was in a good place.

"The dentistry waiting list is completely cleared and we don't have any complaints on that," he said.

"Long waits are now at zero and the surgical waiting list has been reduced.

"We are still working on a challenge with outpatients."

Mr Springborg said the hospital was in a good place too, especially with the new maternity ward at Stanthorpe hospital close to opening and upgrades to the technological infrastructure to provide better teleheath services.

Stanthorpe Border Post

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