The Sunday Mail (Queensland)

HOME CALLS ABUSE

GPs concerned ‘free’ service is hitting taxpayers WAIKIKISTY­LE’S ALLTHEW AVE

- SAMANTHA MAIDEN NATIONAL POLITICAL EDITOR ALEXANDRIA UTTING

GENERAL practition­ers have raised concerns over a booming home doctor service providing “free” bulk-billed home visits after 4pm that costs taxpayers up to $150 a consultati­on.

The flying squad of 600 GPs is providing home visits in Australia which deliver big savings to state government­s.

Compared with the $400 to $500 estimated cost of an emergency visit, the GP’s come to the home for a fraction of the price but it is the Federal Government footing the bill.

Children under age four and seniors over age 85 are the biggest users. Patients are flocking to the services, with the National Home Doctor Service offering 900,000 bulk billed GP visits “free” to patients in the last year.

Because the service only operates after hours, GPs are paid a Medicare fee of between $127 and $150 to consult patients at home and aged care facilities. SPRING is just around the corner and Queensland designer Kirsten Beck says this season’s swimwear look will be high-cut and cheeky.

The Tugun-based designer’s brand Molly & Polly will launch their a retro-inspired swimwear line – Getting Cheeky in Waikiki – later this month.

“It’s very retro with lots of hibiscus flowers and pastels, which really compliment that summer glow,” Beck said.

“The collection has really taken inspiratio­n from the USA and more girls here are wanting to have that cheeky cut in the back of the brief of a bikini.”

That said, the full-piece cossie is still very much in.

“The full-piece is hotter than ever and I think our full-piece swimsuit, which is taken-in more on the sides, is just that bit more sexy than what people usually think of when imagining a full-piece,” the 25-year-old said.

All Molly & Polly swimwear and leggings are 100 per cent Australian made. “We really look at quality over quantity when it comes to our swimwear and we know our customers don’t want to see 100 other girls at the beach wearing the same swimsuit,” Beck said.

Molly & Polly swimwear and leggings are available online at mollyandpo­llyswim.com.au.

This compares to a Medicare rebate as low as $36.30 for a standard consultati­on in a GP surgery.

But chairman of the Australian Medical Associatio­n’s Council of General Practice Dr Brian Morton said the $150 after hours Medicare fee for home consults is designed for “urgent” cases only, posing a grey area for doctors.

“It’s not free. It is paid for by all taxpayers and should be re

spected for that,” Dr Morton said. “The issue that GPs get upset with is some patients are abusing the system. That’s the problem with bulk billing, the patient doesn’t have to put their hand in their pocket.”

The Australian Home Doctor Service argues they use a triage system to assess patients over the phone, diverting nonurgent cases back to their GP.

“By far the biggest share of patients we see are under the care of someone else. It’s the mother caring for young children or elderly parents,” chairman Paul Mirabelle said.

“We actually work in conjunctio­n with GPs. If it’s not urgent we redirect patients to their normal GP.”

Servicing Brisbane, Ipswich, the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, Toowoomba, Sydney, Melbourne, Geelong, Adelaide, Canberra, Shepparton and Launceston the National Home Doctor Service is hugely popular with parents with young children and seniors who need after-hours care.

Health Minister Sussan Ley said it was helpful services were looking to provide afterhours care but she would be disappoint­ed if some were “gaming the system”.

“It’s important Australian­s have direct access to face-toface after hours medical services no matter where they live and we are delivering incentives to improve that,” Ms Ley said.

“However … we expect health profession­als to deliver them when the patient needs them not at a time that delivers the best financial reward.”

 ??  ?? CHEEKY: Ella van Seters and Martine Sjorbotten chill out in Molly & Polly swimwear. Picture: Luke Marsden
CHEEKY: Ella van Seters and Martine Sjorbotten chill out in Molly & Polly swimwear. Picture: Luke Marsden

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