Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon has used the last day of the Parliamentary sitting to give a speech calling on the Morrison Government to rethink cuts to bulk billing incentives as doctors increasingly struggle with the pressures of COVID-19.
Ms Claydon told the Parliament that Newcastle was one of 14 areas nationally that were targeted by the Morrison Government to remove bulk billing incentive payments.
“It's astonishing now to think that the Prime Minister started this year of 2020 with a fresh round of cuts to Medicare bulk-billing. The loss of that incentive payment is estimated to cost the Newcastle and Hunter region some $7 million,” Ms Claydon said.
“Doctors have already had to start making decisions about not bulk-billing those vulnerable people in our community. It's already happened. And, indeed, I have lost GPs. I have had GPs' surgery doors close.”
Ms Claydon warned that the pandemic was adding to the pressure for GPs.
“This is a time when our GPs are under even more pressure. Many of them are now reporting to me that they are doing a lot of unpaid work, calling people after hours who are trying to get advice and follow-up information around COVID-19 at the moment. Simultaneously, there’s been a reduction in the number of face-to-face visits to GPs.
“A doctor of many decades in my community, summed up the feelings of his colleagues when he wrote, 'We feel that primary care doctors have been abandoned by the government and left to fend for themselves in the front line of this pandemic.’ – I don't think I could have put it any better myself.”
Ms Claydon called on the Government to reverse the cuts immediately.
“At a time when this pandemic has really made abundantly clear the importance of strong, universal primary healthcare in this nation, it is astonishing that the government should even contemplate proceeding with this cruel scheme to cut bulk-billing incentive payments,” Ms Claydon said.
Ms Claydon said more than 3,000 Novocastrians had signed her petition against the Government’s bulk billing incentive cuts.