Why GPs are pushing you out the door

A TRIP to the doctor is costing Australians more and GPs have called for it to stop.

They say they are forced to watch the clock to get patients out the door because a longer appointment costs more, or patients are avoiding seeing them altogether because of the high out-of-pocket expenses.

The peak organisation for general practice, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), which represents more than 40,000 members, has called for immediate action to ensure patients can continue to access high quality healthcare.

Their figures show how the out-of-pocket cost for the average patient has increased over the last decade as the Medicare rebate remains the same.

A targeted ad campaign, which will be rolled out from today, sends a serious message.

"I can't afford to go to the doctor," one woman named Tammy says in the ad. "This is not fair."

Tammy, who features in the new campaign, says she can’t afford to go to the doctor. Picture: RACGP
Tammy, who features in the new campaign, says she can’t afford to go to the doctor. Picture: RACGP

RACGP president Dr Harry Nespolon said general practice needed a solid commitment from all political parties this election to make sure patients could see a GP when they needed to, not when they could afford to.

"We have been calling for substantial investment into general practice for several years, across governments and all sides of politics with little to show for it," he said.

"We need to see commitment from our politicians, otherwise general practice patients will suffer.

"As a GP for over 20 years, the last thing I ever want to do is turn away a patient because they cannot afford it, but if something doesn't change soon that is going to become a reality."

Dr Nespolon said he got into medicine because he wanted to help the community, not keep an eye on the clock or struggle to maintain financial viability.

An RACGP graph showing how patient rebates do not reflect the true cost of care.
An RACGP graph showing how patient rebates do not reflect the true cost of care.

"When Medicare was created it was to make sure that those who could not afford healthcare did not miss out," he said.

"But because of a lack of investment by all sides of politics over the last decade, patients with complex conditions are already having to decide if they can afford to see their doctor.

"The evidence is in. The more time spent with your GP the better your health is."

He said general practice was Australia's most accessed form of healthcare, with nearly 90 per cent of all Aussies visiting their GP each year, yet only received 7.4 per cent of all government health expenditure.

"Something needs to change, and fast, as Australians we have a sense of making sure no one goes without, we are not America," he said.

"That is why, as a profession, we are standing up and saying that enough is enough.

"Patients need to know that because of decisions made by successive governments, more and more Australians cannot afford to see their doctor."

Their campaign calls for voters to put pressure on their candidates and make their health the focus this election.


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