Doctors see drop in patients who fear fee sting

DOCTORS on the Sunshine Coast are experiencing a drop in appointments or even cancellations from patients who fear being charged a $7 co-payment fee.

Sunshine Coast general practitioner Peter Dobson (pictured) said the proposed co-payment was not planned to start until July next year.

"The proposed budget still allows for a full 12 months preparation before the co-payment kicks in," he said.

"It appears that some patients are only hearing the news about a co-payment and missing the details.

"It worries us that patients may be cancelling or postponing important appointments to manage their chronic illness or for important preventive health checks.

"(They appear to fear) they may not be able to afford a co-payment that is still at least a year away.

"It is of particular concern because those cancelling the appointments are likely to be the most vulnerable in our community - the elderly or families with young children."

Medical on Maple owner Dr Zoltan Bourne said they had more available appointments in their Maleny practice than they normally would at this time of year, going into flu season.

"Some patients don't want to come in and check their results," he said.

"And those patients making pathology or imaging appointments are hesitant and not booking in immediately. We have to convince them.

"We have to keep explaining to them ...

"It's interfering with our capability to continue providing a busy general practice.

"We're one of the few 100% bulk billing practices."

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