GENERAL practitioners in rural areas cannot sustain the current Medicare indexation freeze and many will “go to the wall”, unless the nation adopts a user pays system according to Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Dr Ewen McPhee.
He fears some rural general practitioners will have to shut down their practices due to financial pressures as a result of the current government policy.
“Effectively this is a war on general practitioners,” he said after reviewing the federal government’s budget announcement on Tuesday night.
Dr McPhee said general practitioners already struggling with costs of running a surgery under the existing system were not in a position to offer after hours services in places such as Orange and district, which in turn puts pressure on Orange hospital.
Dr McPhee is calling on the federal government to be honest with the public about the lack of sustainability of Medicare rebates, and the pressure it puts on general practitioners.
“While our GP’s care for patients they are also running a business, dealing with the costs of accreditation, insurances, staff wages, infection control, safety costs and the current drug epidemic, and it’s not rocket science to see their costs are spiraling,” he said.
Dr McPhee said ideally the health system should be able to support general practitioners to care for their patients ‘from cradle to grave’ which is how rural GPs see their role.
“But the existing government policy is putting us in the dark ages,” he said.
Dr McPhee said in a hook-up post-budget on Tuesday night, with more than 2500 general practitioners from rural areas and cities across Australia there was a high level of despondency.
“There is no cohesive plan in this country for general practitioners to deliver primary health care,” Dr McPhee said.
He said while the federal government lacks the political will to hold an inquiry into the delivery of general practitioner care in rural areas, it requires a cultural shift in the community that health care cannot be provided free of charge, and patients will have to start contributing when they visit the doctor.
“GPs can’t afford to run after hours services and we need the community to realise we can’t call a GP out in the middle of the night for a sore finger,” he said.
“Our doctors are concerned for the welfare of their patients but they are under huge pressure and of course that spills over to our hospital system to people presenting to emergency departments such as Orange.”
Dr McPhee said Australia should investigate the lead of other nations in charging co-payments for people turning up to emergency departments in non-urgent situations, citing the $30 co-payment in Japan and the Scandinavian countries as an example.
Raising the Medicare levy according to Dr McPhee is not the panacea to the issues facing general practitioners.
“A lot of money just bleeds into the health system without a clear picture of where it is going,” he said.
The Federal Government has announced the Medicare indexation freeze will remain in place for the next two years.
Read more at http://www.centralwesterndaily.com.au/story/3887997/fears-orange-gps-will-be-further-affected-by-a-continued-medicare-indexation-freeze/