New research from the National Health Performance Authority (NHPA) has again highlighted the danger to the health system of the Liberals’ continuing attack on general practice.
The report finds almost one in ten Australians in some regions are putting off seeing a GP because they cannot afford it.
In the Murray region of Victoria, which includes Bendigo, Swan Hill, Mildura, Wodonga and the Victorian Alps, nine per cent of people reported missing seeing their GP because it was too expensive.
In the ACT, Tasmania and NSW’s Murrumbidgee region, which covers the minister for health’s own electorate, seven per cent are putting off a GP visit because of cost.
The Northern Territory and North and South Brisbane also have higher rates of people forced to miss a doctor’s appointment because of cost.
By contrast across Sydney, which has the nation’s highest bulk billing rate, just two or three per cent are missing a GP appointment because of cost.
These figures can only worsen as the Liberal Party’s Medicare freeze places even bigger barriers in the path of people attempting to see a GP by driving down bulk billing and driving up fees.
The report also finds a strong correlation between lack of affordable access to GPs and greater numbers of patients visiting Emergency Departments.
Research earlier this year by the NHPA found 23 per cent of patients who presented to casualty, felt they should instead have been treated by a GP.
Research by state governments has confirmed this figure will soar as the Liberals press ahead with plans to force more patients to pay to see a doctor and drive down bulk billing.
As the minister has repeatedly made clear, the Liberals remain committed to up-front fees and the end of universal access to Medicare.
Today’s report confirms that will only lead to even more patients being unable to afford a GP and even more patients heading to already overstretched Emergency Departments.