UPDATE: Shortly before this story went to print on 16 Jan 2015 the federal government announced the planned rebate changes would not go ahead on Monday (yesterday) as previously announced, however some form of co-payment will be considered in the future. The story below was adjusted after that announcement.
GENERAL practitioners from medical clinics across West and Central Gippsland have warned federal government cuts to Medicare could “threaten the viability of local… clinics.”
The funding changes which were to be introduced on Monday would have seen the government cut the rebate for doctor visits lasting less than 10 minutes by more than $20, a cost for GPs which would likely have passed on to patients.
GPs from 12 clinics between Warragul and Traralgon met in Moe earlier this week to discuss changes.
“The Federal Government’s decision to implement these changes will impact on both the cost and the availability of health care in the Gippsland and Latrobe Valley community,” Gippsland General Practice Forum spokesperson Dr Robert Birks said in a media release.
“This change alone will cost patients four times the Government’s announced $5 reduction in the rebate for longer consultations and force clinics to reduce the amount of unfunded nursing hours.
“Doctors are concerned that the cumulative effect of the Federal Government cuts may lead to service reductions and ultimately clinic closures in smaller centres.”
Dr Birks said job losses “seemed to be inevitable” should such changes go ahead.
“The government did not consult with the AMA or GPs about these changes,” he said.
The changes to rebates would not have lasted long even if they had not been withdrawn – senators from the Labor party and the Greens, along with a number of cross bench senators, have said they would vote to overturn any changes.
Prime minister Tony Abbott has told media the change needs to happen.
“We are serious about budget responsibility,” he said.
“I say to all of the critics, if you don’t like what we are doing come up with your alternative because we simply cannot go on… as a country living beyond our means.”
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