Urgent help needed for GPs as bulk-billing nears collapse

Urgent help needed for GPs as bulk-billing nears collapse

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In this article, you will get all the information regarding Urgent help needed for GPs as bulk-billing nears collapse

Distressed doctors across the country are calling for urgent action as the bulk-billing system nears collapse, leaving some of the most vulnerable Australians unable to afford basic healthcare.

Some general practitioners have already closed their doors as the current model becomes unsustainable, while others have been forced to charge patients gap fees, Primary Care Business Council director Jeremy Stones said.

“It’s picked up pace,” he told Ilmhunt.com.au.

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“The costs of running the general practice – nursing and admin and insurances and rent – has just rapidly escalated far beyond headline inflation and far beyond government funding.

“We’re now starting to see practices saying ‘When leases are up, let’s close the doors’.”

Royal Australian College of GPs president Dr Karen Price said workforce shortages have also contributed to the crisis.

Distressed doctors across the country are calling for urgent action as the bulk-billing system nears collapse. File image. Credit: RunPhoto/Getty Images

Fewer young doctors are choosing general practice as their speciality and fewer GPs are coming to Australia from overseas.

Some GPs have implemented a mixed billing model, whereby more people are charged a private fee.

“It’s very distressing for doctors because we really want to look after our vulnerable patients who really are finding it hard to afford healthcare gaps, but we are really finding it a choice between keeping the doors open at all or continuing on with business,” Price told Ilmhunt.com.au.

Stones added GPs have been underfunded for about a decade, but the COVID pandemic has accelerated the long-term trend.

“It’s not something that’s appeared overnight. Those of us in the industry have been probably warning about this for at least a decade,” Stones said.

Healthcare impacts

The impacts on the wider healthcare system will be felt if the current model is maintained, both Stones and Price said.

“It takes longer to get into a doctor because there’s patient and community demand … so waiting lists have expanded significantly,” Stones said.

“Patients are now having to pay a gap fee far more frequently than what they have been used to in previous years.

“So, you’ve got to wait longer and it’s more expensive.”

Patients who don’t get GP care will end up in emergency rooms, putting more pressure on an already buckling hospital system

“They can be going into other areas of healthcare or not actually receiving healthcare at all,” Price said.

Medicare changes are needed – and urgently. File image. Credit: Joel Carrett/AAP

“And all those are concerning for us because there’s costs in missed diagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and certainly in attending emergency departments for things that could be managed in general practice.”

Price said Medicare changes are needed – and urgently.

“There needs to be some regulatory changes to allow more foreign doctors into Australia to address the immediate shortages,” Stones said.

“There does need to be some increase in funding from the federal government.”

Price said the government also needs to look at how the general practice patient demographic has changed.

“We’ve got many more complex patients and Medicare was designed at a time when it was fairly quick consults, and now we need much longer time with our patients.

“At the moment, Medicare is driving a model that suits high-volume care and we’re saying we need time to care for our patients and patients with complex needs are missing out on that time.”

If nothing happens, overall expenditure on healthcare will increase and some of the most vulnerable people in the community could miss out on healthcare.

“That’s certainly not an option for most fair-minded Australians,” Price said.

Urgent help needed for GPs as bulk-billing nears collapse

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