In less than a month the Abbott Coalition Government has announced $80 billion in cuts to health and education, hiked up the price of prescription medicines and want to slug regional patients with an extra $1.4 billion by introducing the GP Tax, deterring millions from getting help when they need it most.
Now this week, National Party Member Barnaby Joyce had the gall to suggest a paltry $52.5 million infrastructure grant as the solution to primary healthcare access in rural and regional Australia.
“The Coalition just don’t get it. They’re throwing money at regional Australia to build more primary health facilities when their GP Tax will actually cripple regional GP practices, ultimately forcing many to close”, said Stephen Jones.
President of the Rural Doctor’s association, Dr Ian Kamerman has said the GP Tax will make rural and regional doctors face a tough choice - force their already struggling patients to pay the tax, or treat patients free of charge and put more pressure on their practice’s viability.
“The Abbott Government’s priorities are completely out of whack”, said Jones.
“They’ve shown it time and time again, with their $1.4 billion hit to regional GP visits, their $55 billion dollar cut to public hospitals and the $370 million being ripped out of preventative health programs put in place by Labor to reduce chronic disease in regional Australia.
“We know that Australians in rural and regional areas have higher rates of chronic disease than those in cities.
“They are more likely to have diabetes, more likely to develop skin cancer, arthritis and be overweight or obese.
“The Coalition promised before the election their Minister for Regional Health would give full-time attention to regional health concerns, and make regional health a high priority in general health policy.
“Now the Minister in charge of rural and regional health, Fiona Nash has admitted she was no way involved in the development of the GP Tax or requested any modeling on how the GP Tax will impact on the health of rural and regional Australians.
“More than one million Australians live in rural and regional Australia and already struggle with access to primary health care.
“They deserve a Government that will champion their needs, not a one that hacks billions out of health and thinks a few new buildings will make it better.”