Mamamia interview with Holly Wainwright
Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's Mamamia interview with Holly Wainwright.
The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health
30 November 2017
Topics: New screening test for cervical cancer; Gardasil 9; new Medicare items for pregnant women and new mums; same sex marriage
Hello. We don’t get federal ministers in at Mamamia every day, but today we have the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt in to talk to us about some very important changes to the HPV screening that will affect all of you guys out there, and it’s live as of tomorrow, am I right?
Correct. Well, thanks very much to Holly and to everybody in the Mamamia family, and it’s a real breakthrough.
So we have a new test that’s coming, and what that means is that they’ll be more accurate in terms of diagnosing cervical cancer and the pathway to cervical cancer, and therefore will require it less frequently.
So it’s good news on both fronts. It’ll save lives and it will be something that will mean that people will know earlier, they’ll be able to get treatment earlier, and above all else, young women will have a better future.
So we can’t get too carried away. It doesn’t mean that women won’t have to go to the doctor for a pap smear anymore, but it’s a different process and you say it starts later in terms of age, is that right? So instead of going at 18, women will now get their first test…
At 25. So there are two big things that are happening. Firstly, we are vaccinating actually not just young girls. We’re doing girls and boys for HPV, or human papilloma virus. That’s with what’s called Gardasil.
I think many would have heard of Gardasil and many of the audience would have been given the vaccine at school. As of next year, there’ll be a new vaccine, Gardasil 9, which will offer much more protection.
So is that like a new, improved version?
Correct, it’s exactly that. So it’s new and improved, it gives greater coverage. Many young people are coming through with that coverage, which means that the likelihood of them ever getting cervical cancer is much lower, and also there’s now a new test for cervical cancer, and that’s what’s happening here. Still the same collection method, so you still have to go to the doctor.
Sorry guys, still have to go.
Sorry about that. And if you haven’t been, please go. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go, you still have to go and have your test, but from now on it means that it’ll be more accurate.
So the way in which they actually assess the collected material is different, and it’s much more accurate, and it also means that you can get earlier treatment. That’s why we’ll only need to do this every five years rather than every two.
And the reason for changing it is for that, right? Is that the test is more accurate, and so you can act more quickly?
Correct. What it means is that if you have the signs of not cancer, but pre-cancer, for the first time we’ll be able to detect this and you can get that treatment.
So you can effectively reduce the risk of cervical cancer, and we’re looking with the vaccination and then the new test on decreasing the rate of cervical cancer in Australia, which means that lives will be saved, decreasing the risk of the cancer, and linking that to the fact that once they’ve had the first test under the new regime, women won’t have to have it as frequently.
But for those that haven’t had a test in recent years, please do this, because this could save your life.
So don’t wait. So, as of tomorrow these changes are effective, but you should still stick to the schedule that you have for now until you get the first one of the first tests, and then the new schedule kicks in.
Exactly. Make sure you go, have your test when you’re due to have your next test. That still applies, but from then on, it will be once every five years unless there are signs that you are at risk or you actually need treatment.
And it’s one of those moments in medical history where there’s a discovery, a new treatment, a breakthrough, and this is now rolling out and being available to every woman in Australia.
It’s good news because women are busy and they tend to put themselves last, especially as they get older and they’re mums and those kind of things, so the fact that you won’t have to have that every two years, but every five, makes our lives a little bit simpler, just a little bit simpler.
There are some other changes coming in that will be really helpful to mothers in particular, which I am interested in.
As of January, I think, is that we’re having a change to the screening for mental health issues in new mums, is that right?
Correct. So, postnatal depression is something that can happen to any new mum, even during pregnancy. Of course, pregnancy is this incredibly joyous time, a new birth, joyous time, but it’s a reality that often for many people can come with depression.
And what we’re doing is making available new tests, which can be bulk billed, which means you don’t have to pay, for mental health, for during pregnancy and post-pregnancy.
And so these are coming in. Again, it’s part of taking care of young women, of mums to be and new mums, and the earlier we can diagnose if somebody does have it.
Often I know new mums can think, this should be a really positive time, I shouldn’t be feeling this.
They can feel guilt. Don’t feel guilt, this is part of life. It can be biological, it can be driven by circumstance, whatever the cause, there’s no reason to feel guilt. The important thing is get the treatment.
Go and ask for your GP to give you what is called a mental health assessment if you think that something might not be right. It’s perfectly normal.
So do you have to ask your GP for it? So it will be covered, but you have to say to your GP, I would like to have this assessment because I’m struggling, because I’m not.
Well, GPs will, as a matter of course, offer it. But if you’re not in front of your GP, this is a time where, if things are not right, if you don’t feel that during pregnancy or after having given birth that emotionally everything’s okay, this is the time where you should reach out to your GP.
It’s a new regime that’s available. Basically, it’s a way of protecting mums, of protecting mums-to-be. And you look around a room like this, it could happen to anybody anywhere.
It’s not about anything other than the fact that in life any of us can have a mental health challenge. I know my own mother had some very significant mental health challenges.
Anybody, anywhere, but particularly postnatal depression and even depression during pregnancy is something that can come along, and sometimes there’s misplaced guilt and there’s no reason to feel that guilt.
It’s great to see that stigma being broken down, because I think that a lot of women, as you were touching on earlier, that they’re thinking this should be the happiest time in their life, why aren’t I feeling the way that I should do in the brochures and in the TV ads for nappies?
And so anything we can do to make that help more accessible for women, it’s so welcome.
And if you’re sitting up and it’s 3am and you’ve got bub over the shoulder and you’ve spent two hours trying to feed and get them back to sleep, and if you’ve got some of the signs of depression, it can all cycle down.
But anybody who thinks, gosh, I shouldn’t be like this, I’m meant to be conforming to the brochures and the ads, that’s not the reality of life, we all know that.
And now there’s the opportunity to seek that help through your GP and we’re making all of these things available, and please take the opportunity to use them.
So what should you ask your GP for? You should ask them for a mental health screening, is that correct?
Yeah. If you say, look, I’ve had a new bub or I’m pregnant, I don’t feel right, I feel emotionally down, feel free to ask.
Go to the GP, or if you are with your GP, say I’d like a mental health screening or a mental health assessment, and they’ll do it.
This is part of what they do, and talking to GPs, all of the time they’re testing people for mental health conditions. Anybody who goes to a GP would think, gee, will it be right for me to ask?
That’s what they do, that’s what they want to talk about, so there’s no reason to feel anything other than it’s normal.
And equally, for the changes to the HPV screening, if you’ve got any concerns about where you’re up to in your schedule on those things, ask your GP. They’ll all be very aware of this change.
Yeah, and we have a register. And so it’s easy for someone to lose their record and say, gee, have I been tested, do I need something?
The GP can help you access the register. And not everybody knows their medical history, and you wonder, was I tested for this or was I tested for something else? So again, the GP can help you access the National Cancer Screening Registry.
Alright, effective as of tomorrow, 1 December. And you’ll be going back to Canberra next week, and it will be a big week in Parliament, am I right?
Absolutely. So, there’s the vote for the same-sex marriage bill. I’ve long supported a yes vote. I’m really thrilled at both the turnout, almost 80 per cent of Australians, and then the vote, 61.5 per cent of Australians who said yes.
For me, I’ll be voting yes, but I think this is the moment of acceptance. So there’s a legal change, but it’s something much more than that.
I think we will look back in 20 and 30 and 40 years and say this was the true moment in Australian history where not just same-sex marriage, but people’s sexual choices were just confined to history in terms of issues around it.
It’s just whatever people want, we accept, it’s their choice, and it’ll be a really great moment in Australian history.
I think the Parliament will now back up what the people said, and that moment of history will be something that Australians and future generations will look at.
Now, I know you can’t predict this, because what’s going to happen next week is that everybody will want to speak on the issue before the bill can be passed, am I right?
But if you were a betting man, will it take us all week or will we pass it on Monday afternoon and everyone can go home?
I don’t think it’ll be done on Monday afternoon.
I think a lot of people have deep, strong views and will want to speak on it, so we’ll sit as long as it needs to take. Predicting parliamentary vote times is a very dangerous proposition.
I would say later on in the week, and if we need to sit through Thursday night, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, we’ll just do that. But it’ll get done, and it’ll be a yes, and that will be a great moment.
Well, thank you so much for coming in today to tell us about these important changes, and next week, an exciting week. So thank you so much, Minister.
It’s a pleasure, and what a place you’ve got here. It’s just full of energy.
It’s just like Parliament House, right?
A little quieter and a little less rowdy.
Oh, you should see it on Friday afternoon. Bye.