NO BONES ABOUT IT, BULK BILLING VI­TAL

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - NEWS - Elisha Pearce

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

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