Reduced rebate for Home Doctor Service visits to cost more elsewhere

Gosford Hospital

Changes to Medicare funding will hit GP after-hours services and will see more patients presenting at Gosford Hospital’s already over-stretched emergency department, according to Member for Gosford, Ms Liesl Tesch.

“Until now, the rebate for visits by the Home Doctor Service has been $129.80, but that will be reduced to $100 for most doctors,” Ms Tesch said.

“The rebate will be cut further to $90, on January 1, 2019, making it even harder for Central Coast residents to access a GP when they need it.

“Local residents already struggle to find a GP, and if this service is cut back, elderly patients and families will have even more difficulty in accessing a doctor after hours,” Ms Tesch said.

“The reduced funding for the service will also see unnecessary ambulance callouts – which are at record levels, costing $1,351 a patient.”

Despite the success of the program, Central Coast home doctor service has been told to stop promoting their work, which could also spell the end
of this vital local service.

Ms Tesch said statistics showed just how effective the Home Doctor Service is.

“Just last year, 695,715 NSW patients used the Home Doctor service, saving federal, state and territory governments about $724 million,” Ms Tesch said.

“The costs speak for themselves.

“The average home visit costs $128 compared to $368 for an emergency presentation, and even if a hospital visit is necessary, the home visit can lead to more efficient triaging at the emergency department, with doctors better able to brief paramedics.

“It brings peace of mind to local residents and helps relieve a public hospital system under immense pressure.

“These doctors help preserve our emergency departments for their true purpose, emergencies.”

The after hours doctors visit aged-care facilities, patients with mobility problems, and young children who become ill outside normal business hours.

The independent Bureau of Health Information (BHI) data showed that the July September 2017 period had the highest number of patients ever in NSW hospital emergency departments at 720,564 – an increase of 9.4 percent over the same quarter a year ago, or more than 62,000 additional patients.

Source: Media release, Mar 21 Richard Mehrtens, office of Liesl Tesch