GP Tax a double hit for local hospitals

Labor’s Spokesperson for Rural and Regional Health, Stephen Jones has today called on the NSW Health Minister to reveal the modelling on her Department has prepared on the GP Tax impact on emergency departments in regional areas.

A NSW Government briefing paper prepared for the Premier in May has revealed that the GP Tax will cause a staggering 27% increase in patients presenting to local emergency departments due to the increased cost of seeing a local GP.

There were 142,595 total presentations to emergency departments across the Illawarra, Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven in 2013. If the NSW Government modelling is correct and an additional 27% of patients choose to visit the ED due to cost once the GP Tax is introduced, we will see an influx of more than 38,500 additional patients in regional EDs every year.

Stephen Jones says this is a conservative estimate.

“It’s likely that regional and rural hospitals will be hit even harder because, as the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found, patients from regional areas like the Illawarra are more likely to attend an ED than their city counterparts”, said Jones.

“This means longer waiting times for patients and an even bigger workload for our local doctors and nurses who we know are already under the pump.

“It will place local hospitals like Wollongong and Shellharbour in an impossible situation. They get hit by increase patient numbers but they also run the risk of losing Commonwealth funding for failing to meet National Partnership performance targets.”

Under the National Emergency Access Target (NEAT), part of the National Partnership Agreement on Improving Public Hospital Services, hospitals receive reward funding for meeting the target of discharging 90% of ED patients within 4 hours.

“It is not the job of the NSW Government to run a protection racquet for Health Minister Peter Dutton and his Minister in charge of Rural and Regional Health Fiona Nash”, said Jones.