NO BONES ABOUT IT, BULK BILLING VITAL
DOCTORS will close, pass on costs that deter patients or see more people every hour if the Medicare rebate is frozen, according to two western Sydney doctors.
Dr Kean-Seng Lim and Dr Saad Saad both say making budget savings through Medicare rebate freezes and forcing some doctors to adopt a patient co-payment will have farreaching consequences.
In western Sydney, which has higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, asthma and other health problems, they think making health harder to access is playing with fire.
Dr Saad, of Colyton Medical Centre in the Lindsay electorate, said he was told freezing the Medicare rebate would either cut into a doctor’s income by $50,000 a year or have to be passed on.
He said some doctors would just shut their doors, leaving fewer medical services in the area.
“I know a lot of doctors around this area, and GPs working in two- or three-doctor small practices might close,’’ he said.
“The government should consider this and this area should be an exception to those types of savings.
“Most doctors bulk bill here; it is high, like 90 per cent, no one here is private.”
Dr Lim, of Mt Druitt Medical Centre in Chifley, said 98 per cent of practices in the area bulk bill and they would all be forced to make drastic decisions about closing or passing on price rises.
He said some older doctors would close down and others try to see more patients an hour to make up for lost income, reducing the quality of care.
“Many of the real health problems we face take time to manage properly,” Dr Lim said.
He said more money would be spent on quick referrals or people ending up in emergency after not receiving early care.
“It will be tempting for some doctors to order more investigations instead of spending more time with a patient and that will cost the entire system more,’’ he said.
“There is a lack of vision for changing the health care system to make it more efficient and produce better outcomes.”
Dr Saad said the primary health care of GP visits should be protected, especially in lower socioeconomic areas such as Mt Druitt and Colyton.
Dr Kean-Seng Lim, at Mt Druitt Medical Centre, fears for the future of doctors in the region. Picture: Peter Kelly