Abbott Must Heed Rural Health Warning

Labor’s Rural and Regional Health Spokesperson, Stephen Jones, has backed calls from the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) for the Abbott Government to hit the reset button on health reform in the bush.

Professor Dennis Pashen, President of the RDAA, believes that the Government must walk away from its dreaded GP Tax and focus instead on policies to recruit doctors to regional areas and improve rural health services.

“Susan Ley should listen to Dr Pashen and ditch the plan to slug patients $5 just to see their Doctor,” Stephen Jones said.

“She should take on board his advice that you don’t get much benefit by attacking primary care and discouraging people from visiting their local GP.”

Stephen Jones said that the Government must recognise that the GP Tax would be particularly devastating for rural communities.

“As the RDAA have pointed out, people in rural and regional Australia already suffer from poorer health outcomes, including high rates of chronic disease. They have inferior access to services and bulk billing rates are lower in the bush.

“Many rural medical practices that represent struggling communities can’t simply ask their patients to pay more – so some practices operating on tight margins will face closure.

“People will instead turn to hospital emergency rooms. We know that people in rural areas are more likely to be admitted to hospital for problems that could have been prevented through other services such as their local GP.

“This will be disastrous in the long run because it costs much less for health problems to be dealt with by a GP compared to a hospital.”