Labor’s Rural and Regional Health spokesperson Stephen Jones has slammed the Government for abandoning health services in the bush.


Last night Scott Morrison announced that the Coalition is extending its GP Tax by the backdoor – the freeze on Medicare rebates - for a further two years.

In addition the Treasurer axed $182.2 million from the Health Flexible Funds, which includes the Rural Health Outreach Fund (RHOC).

This follows Flexible Fund cuts of $197 million in the 2013-14 Budget and $596 million in the last year’s Budget. In total almost $1 billion has been slashed from these funds under the Coalition’s brief reign.

The RHOC, which is designed to improve access to medical specialists, GPs and allied health providers in rural, regional and remote areas of Australia, is once again on the chopping block.

These decisions come on top of:

  • Last year’s MYEFO cut to the Rural Health Continuing Education Program, which was successful in filling gaps in development in rural and remote areas.
  • Existing cuts to the Dental Relocation and Infrastructure Support Scheme and Prevocational General Practice Placement Program.

 Extending the Medicare rebate freeze by another two years will have a particularly harsh impact on communities outside of our major cities.

It is in the bush where many practices are operating on tight margins. Doctors will be forced to slug their patients with a GP Tax or shut up shop.

Many GPs have their hands tied as they know that their patients will not be able to pay more.

People living outside of our cities already suffer from poorer health outcomes and have inferior access to services. As a result people in rural areas are more likely to be admitted to hospital for problems that could have been dealt with by their GP.

Forcing GP Practices to close or charge their patients extra will simply result in more and more patients flooding into already, over-crowded public hospitals in rural, regional and remote Australia.

This will prove disastrous in years to come because it costs much less for health problems to be dealt with by a GP compared to a hospital.

Axing funds which support at-risk rural health services shows that this is a Liberal Budget to its core. These cuts prove that Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t care about regional Australia and that the National Party have failed to make itself heard.

The difference between Labor and Liberal could not be starker - we'll put people first, while the 2016 Budget has shown Mr Turnbull and the Liberal Party will look after high income earners and multinationals.