Toowoomba Hospital ED at risk of extra 7000 patients

TOOWOOMBA Hospital's emergency department could be flooded with another 7000 patients if government rebates to access after-hours GPs are cut.

That's the stern message from House Call Doctor, which said hospitals across Toowoomba and Queensland were headed for a "crisis" if the Federal Government cut Medicare subsidies to medical deputising services by half.

The proposed amendment by the Medicare Benefits Schedule Review Taskforce would reduce the rebate from $130 to $75, something Toowoomba GP Dr Ryan Harvey said would have serious consequences for similar after-hours services and the public health system.

"It's essential and a crucial service for somewhere like Toowoomba, with only one major base hospital that can provide that service to the public," he said.

"Toowoomba doesn't have that many GP clinics working after hours.

"If we weren't available, we estimate that over the past 12 months there have probably been 7000 presentations to us that would otherwise have gone to the Toowoomba ED."

House Call Doctors is one of several different organisations that could be forced to charge patients for after hours services.
House Call Doctors is one of several different organisations that could be forced to charge patients for after hours services. Contributed

Dr Harvey, who has helped treat patients in Toowoomba every week since he joined House Call Doctor in 2015, said patients would have to cover the extra funding.

"You couldn't run it for that amount ($75), so the only option would be to make that up with patients paying out-of-pocket," he said.

More than 6800 patients in 2015-16 presented to emergency departments in the Darling Downs for issues that could have been sorted by House Call Doctor, and the problem of unnecessary presentations was flagged by Health Minister Cameron Dick earlier this year.

Do you think after hours GP Medicare rebates should be cut?

This poll ended on 22 September 2017.

Current Results

Yes, it's a waste of money


No, it's essential for people who need to see a doctor


This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

"The evidence we're seeing (thanks to after hours care) is we're seeing reductions in the number of people who arrive at emergency departments with low-range issues," Dr Harvey said.

"If these rebates go, this service will go and it will cause a crisis from an emergency department point of view."

A campaign has been launched by the National Association of Medical Deputising Services to fight the proposed cuts.

To join, head to the website.

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