This week we have been working with a GP practice on the Gold Coast and were surprised to hear an elderly patient lament their delay in coming to see the GP due to the new $7 co-payment. It is important to remember that this proposed co-payment to see a GP will not come into effect until at least 1 July next year. As part of the last Federal Budget, it was tabled that an introduction of a co-payment could assist in the financial sustainability of the healthcare sector but this introduction is dependent on legislative change and save the amendment of the position of the opposition the measure would not pass through the Senate.
When we further questioned the medical staff at the practice we came to understand that this wasn’t an isolated incident – patients are confused with many thinking the co-payment had already been introduced. One GP expressed concern that patients could be “placing their health in jeopardy particularly for appointments that require prescription or those needing careful monitoring of up-titration of medication.”
Keperra Medical Centre (Queensland) practice manager Lisa Thorne said patient numbers had dropped by at least 100 per week — equivalent to the workload of one full-time doctor — since the Federal Government announced the introduction of the co-payment.
It’s always a great concern when those that are most vulnerable in the community (pensioners, aged, unemployed, families with young children etc) feel they have to make a choice between their health and their weekly budget and even greater concern when the changes are not in effect!
As a sector, general practice, its practice teams and their primary health care relationships comprise the foundations of an effective health care system. GPs do a great job of coordinating preventive health screening, providing vaccinations, supporting patients with chronic conditions such as asthma and heart failure, and offering advice and referrals to see specialists in the healthcare system. Check out I ❤My GP for more information.