GP tax by stealth puts pressure on hospitals


Illawarra MPs Stephen Jones and Sharon Bird have warned that more patients will continue to flood into already over-crowded hospitals as a result of the federal Coalition’s attack on primary care.

The latest figures from the Bureau of Health Information show that hospital staff are under pressure to manage record numbers of admissions, emergency department presentations and elective surgeries.

The quarterly numbers (April – June 2016) reveal:

  • New South Wales EDs experienced a 76,000 increase in presentations compared to the same period last year.
  • The Wollongong hospital elective surgery waiting list is growing.  It has swelled to 2,019 by the end of June 2016, a 16.6 per cent increase on the same period last year.
  • Wollongong hospital is also experiencing worrying delays. 3.5 per cent of semi-urgent surgical procedures and 12.8 per cent of non-urgent surgical procedures are not being performed within clinically recommended timeframes.

The delays in Wollongong hospital surgical procedures is particularly concerning when a comparison is made to the same period last year.

At that time just .7 per cent of semi-urgent surgery was not seen within clinically recommended timeframes. There has also been a slight increase in non-urgent surgery being undertaken outside of clinically recommended timeframes.

Stephen Jones said that the numbers should be a wake-up call for the Turnbull Government.

“In this year’s federal Budget the Turnbull Government extended the Medicare rebate freeze, a GP Tax by the backdoor, all the way to 2020. As a result more and more GPs have been forced to hike their fees and stop bulk billing.

“In the electorate of Whitlam alone two GP clinics in Bowral - the Walker Street General Practice and the Bowral Street Medical Practice – have both terminated their bulk billing services.

“Patients are avoiding trips to see their Doctor because they simply can’t afford it; instead they are ending up in hospital.”

Sharon Bird said the mounting pressure on public hospitals was bad news for the entire healthcare system.

“The Coalition’s continued assault on primary care is negatively affecting the health of patients, particularly older people with multiple chronic diseases who really need to have their conditions carefully monitored.

“It is also leading to higher costs as hospitals treat patients who should have had their health problems seen to by a GP much earlier.

“A single night in a hospital bed can cost $3000, so if we want to reign in health costs putting more pressure on hospitals is the last thing we should be doing.”