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Renewed calls to overhaul hospital funding


Matt Woodley


17/01/2020 1:06:39 PM

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard says patients present at hospitals with minor conditions in part because not all GP visits are covered by Medicare.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard is ‘desperate’ for the Federal Government to lead healthcare reform. (Image: AAP)

Nearly three million people – or half the population of New South Wales – visited a hospital emergency department in 2018–19, of which more than half were triaged as non- or semi-urgent.
 
State Health Minister Brad Hazzard told 9News that NSW public hospital departments have become ‘a substitute for GPs’ and called for an overhaul of the system, including increased remuneration for general practice specialists.
 
‘If people had a choice between paying that money and going to an emergency department free, it’s pretty obvious where they will go,’ he said.
 
‘I am desperate for the Federal Government to lead reform.’
 
The RACGP’s Vision for general practice and a sustainable healthcare system (the Vision) estimates up to $4.5 billion could be saved annually if more funding was allocated to reduce the prevalence of low-urgency emergency presentations and preventable hospitals admissions.
 
‘General practitioners are having to look very carefully at their costs and gaps are being charged to patients much more frequently,’ RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon told 9News.
 
According to the report, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt is ‘open’ to allowing private health insurers to cover out-of-pocket costs incurred at GP clinics – a move supported by the funds but questioned by healthcare bodies including the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) and Consumers Health Forum (CHF).
 
Dr Nespolon previously told newsGP he would be interested to see the detail of how general practice patient rebates could be covered by private health insurers, but added any proposed reform should not stop the Government restoring primary care funding to where it was prior to the Medicare freeze.
 
‘The reason there is pressure on the system is because the Medicare freeze ripped about $1 billion out of general practice that hasn’t been replaced,’ he said.
 
‘By 2023 that figure will grow to around $2.45 billion. Something must be done to close this shortfall, but it should come from Government, not the private sector.
 
‘Medicare is fundamental to Australia’s healthcare sector and we should avoid any move that risks disrupting universal patient access, or that could create a two-tiered system that excludes the most vulnerable among us.’ 
 
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