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Howard Government responsible for GP shortages.

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Media Release Senator Jan McLucas Labor Senator for Queensland Chair, Senate Select Committee on Medicare


GPs and patient representatives alike told the Senate Committee Inquiry into Medicare today in Adelaide that health policy decisions made by the Howard Government have caused the critical shortage of Australian doctors.

The Committee also heard from various expert witnesses that the “Fairer Medicare” package would do nothing to stop the dramatic decline in bulk billing.

The Committee was told that the package is effectively a green light for GPs to charge all Australians who do not have a health care card a gap payment.

The Australian College of Non-Vocationally Registered GPs said its members would be forced to charge people without a Health Care Card more in order to maintain their current income.

The College also said the decision of the Government to impose compulsory post-graduate training requirements effectively shrunk the GP workforce, which has detrimentally affected bulk billing rates.

The SA Alliance of Health Consumers gave evidence that the Government's package will hit the working poor and those Australians who have chronic conditions who require frequent visits to a GP.

The Alliance also said that oral health care in Australia at the moment was a "national disgrace".

It gave evidence that despite increased funding from the SA Government the waiting time for non-urgent dental treatment in SA is still 30 months. The Alliance also said that the abolition of the Keating Government Commonwealth Dental Scheme was an “especially bad decision".

The Aboriginal Medical Service Alliance of the Northern Territory said that it was a "furphy" that co-payments are needed to sustain Medicare.

The Alliance pointed out that co-payments were "regressive", and cited evidence from countries in Africa that had introduced a user-pays health system that co-payments dramatically decreased access by poor people to health services, and had virtually no impact on the rich.

There was also evidence given that the Government’s “Fairer Medicare” package would make it even more difficult for rural practices with Aboriginal populations to attract GPs.

For further information contact: Mary Wood 0421 910 128