The end of bulk billing in the Whitsundays

Doctor. Contributed

BEING sick in the Whitsundays could soon become a lot more costly, with the last remaining bulk-billing practice in the region announcing they will adopt a private billing structure as of March 26.

The 121 Medical Centre in Cannonvale said they were forced to adopt a private billing structure due to the government's freeze on the GP Medicare rebate and the large expenses associated with running a medical practice.

A Medicare rebate will apply to the required services and at the time of payment the practice can apply your rebate directly into your bank account via your EFTOPS card.

Patients exempt from the fee gap include Aged Pensioner card holders age 65 and over, DVA card holders and children under the age of 13.

Other clinics in town do still offer universal bulk billing, but increasing demand and pressure for clinics to make a profit could see universal bulk billing structures become a thing of the past in the region.

Federal MP George Christensen said that GP clinics deciding to no longer do universal bulk billing was a widespread problem throughout the Whitsundays and Mackay.

"At the same time though bulk billing rates have gone up over the last six years which seems almost counter intuitive,” Mr Christensen said.

Previously a primary care unit at Proserpine Hospital offered bulk billing for any patient that presented with simple ailments and sickness; that was shut down due to rules and regulations.

Mr Christensen met with the met Primary Health Network last week to discuss this issue affecting all Mackay and Whitsunday.

The rules and regulations have changed again for in regards to bulk billing within the area, Mr Christensen said re-opening the primary care clinic at Proserpine Hospital would be, "one of the solutions at least for Proserpine.”

"The government can't force doctors to bulk bill, there has been an issue about the freezing of the Medicare rebate, that freeze actually lifts on July first.”

"What I have heard loud and clear is that they just can't make money out of a bulk billing operation and I don't know where you go with that,” Mr Christensen said.

Mr Christensen has arranged a meeting in early May with the North Queensland Primary Health Network and local GPs in regards to the issues surrounding bulk billing in the region.

I've already had discussions with people in Mackay health and Hospital Services that covers the Proserpine and Whitsunday area, they have informed me that the hospital is looking at the re-establishment of a primary care unit since the rules have changed to allow for this.”

Mr Christensen said people shouldn't feel frightened if they can't afford a visit to the GP instead they should have a talk with them, "individual doctors in centres that don't do universal bulk billing are entering arrangements with patients in need to of bulk billing.”

"Your GP, they are all humans and they understand people's financial struggles, but I know people want a universal bulk billing centre and that is the ultimate goal that we have to get to.” he said

Topics:  bulk billing doctors george chistensen gp health mackay health private health proserpine hospital queensland health whitsundays

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