GP hotline four times pricier than a VMO
RURAL doctors are claiming the government’s after-hours GP hotline has saved Australia’s public hospitals about one emergency presentation a week, at a cost of $1000 on each - well above the $75-$225 VMO call-out fee.
The claim comes as rural GPs also blasted the government over its handling of rural health in a series of submissions to a senate inquiry into factors affecting supply of health services and medical professionals in rural areas.
RDAA president Dr Paul Mara said the government’s claim last week that the $40 million helpline had prevented 20,000 presentations in the first six months equated to one presentation every six to seven days at each of the country’s 737 public acute hospitals.
“The government’s reform agenda and the politics surrounding it are more important to it than small country towns and the doctors who work there,” Dr Mara said.
Many of those rural doctors have made submissions to the inquiry on a range of topics, including the contentious Australian Standard Geographic Classification Remoteness Area scheme (ASGC-RA ) used to determine the level of incentive payments to rural GPs and practices.
GP and former Rural Doctors Association NSW president Dr Tilak Dissanayake said he had been unsuccessfully trying to recruit a second or replacement doctor for his practice in the small rural township of Coolah for the past six years.
“This has become an impossible task when you are comparing a small remote community with restricted facilities both medically and community to other larger townships with the same zoning (some of which are based on the beaches and short distances from major cities),” Dr Dissanayake wrote in his submission.
“If the government does not care or have the foresight then why should I?”
In a separate submission Dr Aniello Iannuzzi from Coonabarabran in NSW said the change to the current scheme had left small inland towns unable to recruit GPs.
“The Medicare rebates for inland small towns should be higher than for coastal towns,” Dr Iannuzzi wrote.
“This would provide a massive incentive for doctors to move inland.”
Comment from the health minister was being sought at time of press.