13 May 2015
Tony Abbott has missed his final opportunity to save the Hunter region’s after-hours GP service by failing to fund GP Access in last night’s Budget.
GP Access has played a vital role in relieving pressure for our local hospital’s emergency departments for more than a decade, treating more than one million patients since its inception. However, with no funding forthcoming in the Abbott Liberal Government’s Budget, GP Access will be forced to close their doors next month.
Hunter Labor MPs criticised the Government’s decision to end the program - highlighting the negative impact it will have for local patients, and added stress it will place on already over-stretched hospital emergency departments.
Member for Newcastle, Sharon Claydon said: “The high-quality patient care that GP Access provides after-hours is a vital service in my community.”
"Tony Abbott has completely abandoned the service which will have a profound negative impact for our community and will place significant pressure on local hospital emergency departments.”
Member for Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon said: “GP Access started in Maitland more than a decade ago and has helped to keep tens of thousands of people out of hospitals across the region.”
“Our community will suffer because of the short-sightedness of this Government who are truly out of touch with the Hunter.”
Member for Charlton, Pat Conroy said: “GP Access has always enjoyed bi-partisan support. Bob Baldwin has known for quite some time the situation facing GP Access and their need for funding certainty, so you have to wonder how hard he has pushed this with the Minister?”
“If he hasn’t fought hard, he has let our communities down. If he has, this shows a complete lack of support from his colleagues in the Government.”
Member for Shortland, Jill Hall said: “We know that kids don’t necessarily get sick at a time that suits GP opening hours, so it’s vital that we have a reliable after-hours bulk-billing service in our community.”
“I fear that without GP Access, emergency department waiting times will increase and we will see more hospital admissions for acute illnesses that could have been treated effectively by a GP.”
The GP Access After Hours service has several functions, including the co-ordination of after-hours GP care for more than 240 General Practitioners, the allocation of limited GP appointments in five clinics, and triage of patients through a centralised call centre. The five clinics operate at Belmont Hospital, John Hunter Hospital, Maitland Hospital ,Calvary Mater Hospital and Westlakes Community Health Centre in Toronto.