Abbott's Hospital Tax Punishes Illawarra Patients

Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird and Member for Throsby Stephen Jones say the Abbott Government’s plan to charge a penalty fee for emergency ward visits will punish people in regional areas like the Illawarra, who face inadequate access to after-hours GP services.

“Charging people to go to an emergency ward when there are limited GPs available in their area is punishing people for a problem that Tony Abbott created”, said Jones.

“When he was Health Minister, Tony Abbott put a choke-hold on the number of GPs in Australia.

“Labor turned this around by removing the cap on GP training places and delivering 11,000 more doctors and 26,000 more nurses into the health care system.

“Recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Health Information do not support the Abbott Government’s claim that emergency departments are clogged with patients with minor ailments”, said Ms Bird.

“What they do reveal is that 15 per cent of patients in NSW already put off GP visits, filling prescriptions and getting basic medical tests because of out-of-pocket expenses.

“Tony Abbott’s plan to slap patients with an emergency ward penalty won’t solve the problem. It will just turn hospitals into debt collection agencies”, said Jones.

“The Prime Minister and Health Minister are ignoring the underlying problem that even their counterparts in South Australia and Queensland recognise.

“It is about access to GPs, particularly in regional suburbs and rural areas. This is what drives the demand in our public hospital system.

“In certain parts of Queensland many patients are finding it easier to see a doctor in an emergency room than to get an appointment with a GP, for which they might have to wait up to 18 hours.

“This is a problem the Government cannot tax its way out of”, said Ms Bird.

“A hospital penalty won’t increase revenue. It will just discourage people getting emergency medical help when they’re most in need.”