OPINION: Hope for universal health care?

ABOUT a month ago, I was contacted by ABC radio and then the commercial TV stations as, apparently, I am the last bulk-billing GP in the electorate of Cowper on the Mid North Coast of NSW.

I run my own clinic in Bellingen and have been struggling to continue to offer bulk billing to our patients.

We continue to offer bulk billing to concession card holders.

The recent budget showed a glimmer of hope as the government announced it would triple the bulk billing incentive.

This will mean that GPs who bulk bill concession card holders will get around $30 on top of the Medicare rebate rather than the current $10.

However, this does not address the inadequate Medicare rebates and the increase to bulk billing doesn’t start until November.

So it is still going to be tough to get affordable healthcare and for GPs to cover the high costs of their practices.

But perhaps this is the start and may embolden the government to continue with the measures necessary to save universal healthcare.

We have to keep pressure on the government to do this, especially in the country where our access to healthcare and health outcomes are worse than those in the city.

If we do not invest in ensuring everyone has access to these basic needs, the cost to society will be far greater in terms of missed or late diagnoses, the inability to intervene to prevent health conditions or adverse outcomes, increased emergency presentations, increased mental health problems, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, increased family stress and poorer outcomes for children.

We are one of the richest countries in the world and can afford to provide free healthcare.

Our society has become increasingly unequal and GPs have for too long hidden the crisis in healthcare by taking a personal cut in our incomes by continuing to bulk bill due to empathy and guilt.

We need to adequately fund all healthcare under Medicare, including dental, mental health, allied health and specialist services.

We need the government to recognise the incredible value that GPs provide in our healthcare system.

It’s time for patients to demand this from their politicians and not believe the lies that we cannot afford this.

By Dr Kelly HAMILL, Bellingen Family Medical Centre

Leave a Reply