Federal Nationals Member for Riverina Michael McCormack has expressed serious concerns for the health welfare of regional, rural, and remote Australians after the Minister for Health said people should just “ring around” to find a bulk-billing GP in their area.
Minister Mark Butler said, “We want patients to know, if one practice in their area has changed their behaviour around bulk billing and another hasn’t, it’s entirely your right to vote with your feet.”
He went on, “People can ring around and ask: ‘Are you bulk billing a consult for my kid who’s 14? Are you bulk billing me, I’m a concession card holder?’”
Mr McCormack said the comments come after the Minister moved the goalposts regarding Distribution Priority Areas for GPs – bringing Newcastle, Wollongong and some suburbs of Sydney into the scheme therefore stripping doctors from the regions – and the forcing of community pharmacies to pick up the tab for its 60-day medicine dispensing policy – putting jobs and services in regional communities under threat.
Mr McCormack said the minister is leaving regional and rural Australians behind.
“The Health Minister, through his own words, has shown a complete disdain of those who live, work and pay taxes in regional, rural and remote Australia,” Mr McCormack said.
“Firstly, Labor changed the rules identifying GP shortages, exacerbating the issue in the regions with around 57 per cent of International Medical Graduate doctors moving away from regional areas to urban centres. It then changed pharmacy dispensing rules which could cost up to 20,000 jobs and close hundreds of community chemists – particularly in the regions where there may only be one pharmacy servicing the area.
“And now it’s papering over the cracks of its faltering bulk-billing policies by telling Australians to ‘ring around’ to find a bulk-billing GP.
“This is cold comfort for those in the Riverina and Central West who may only have access to one GP or have to travel many kilometres to even see a doctor, let alone have the luxury of choice. The Minister’s focus is too city centric.
“It is clear the Health Minister is being directed by the Australian Medical Association along with his fellow Labor Ministers who are led by the nose by their union puppet masters.
“This Government won the election on the back of promising to adhere to two principles – ‘no one left behind’ and ‘no one held back.’ Now we have a Labor Government which has shown it can’t be trusted on its word and can’t be trusted to deliver for regional and rural communities.
“Only The Nationals will stand up for better outcomes for those who live, work and raise their families in the regions.”