Government should put money where its mouth is

Letters to the editor

Deborah O’Neill is, of course, quite correct in one sense when she says that Lucy Wicks’ sudden discovery of the GP crisis is a political stunt (“GP ‘emergency’ is political stunt, says O’Neill”, Peninsula News, April 3) and a puzzling one at that, since Wicks has no conceivable solution to offer for the problem, making it difficult to see why she has bought into it.

In another sense, the GP crisis on the Peninsula is no stunt, political or otherwise, as we all know. Nevertheless, her claim that the Government’s policies on Medicare, on treatment reimbursements and on such measures as co-payments have brought about this situation is patently absurd. These policies apply to the whole of Australia but have not resulted in a GP shortage in some other areas where elderly pensioners are a signifi cant proportion of the population, so there must be stronger factors involved. Doctors can pick and choose where to practise, and it is difficult to entice them away from Sydney to the Central Coast or to regional cities. If the Government is serious about tackling the misdistribution of doctors, there is only one mechanism with any prospect of success, and that is to offer financial incentives.

By this, I mean that the Government will have to identify areas of practitioner deficiency and offer them up for tender. Any doctor thinking of moving his practice can then bid whatever amount will persuade him to make a shift, and the Government can decide whether it is willing to pay this kind of subsidy to create an egalitarian medical system. Wringing of hands over doctor shortages is a fruitless exercise. If the Government really sees it as a problem that it should tackle, let us see some practical measures in hard cash. I suspect it will be a long time before the Government puts its money where its mouth is.

Email, 7 Apr 2017 Bruce Hyland, Woy Woy

This letter first appeared in The Peninsula News print edition April 18, 2017