Ipswich doctors are concerned over bulk billing changes.
Ipswich doctors are concerned over bulk billing changes.

Bulk bill boundary change cuts Ipswich

THE DECISION to remove increased bulk billing incentives in Ipswich has caused concern for both doctors and patients in the region.

The changes came into play from January 1 after the boundaries which determine a rural or remote location eligible for the incentive was revised and redrawn, removing Ipswich from the list.

Angela Walker from Warwick Road Medical Centre said the change would have big impacts on the community.

"They've ripped away the opportunity for practices to continue to bulk bill patients in our community," she said.

"We don't fit the mould from a rural or remote perspective, but they assigned us this additional bulk billing incentive equivalent to those areas because of our community's demand.

The latest Health Needs Assessment released by PHN revealed deaths from circulatory system diseases in the West Moreton and Darling Downs region is at 54.3 per cent. It's about 10 per cent higher than both the state and national averages.

Deaths from respiratory systems and death from diabetes in the PHN region is also at 10 per cent higher than the rest of Queensland and the country.

"3.8% of our community members who are living with a disability quoted an inability to access health services entirely due to cost.

"So basically, it was too expensive to see the person they needed to see, so they simply didn't get help."

Mrs Walker has called upon the federal minister for health Greg Hunt to reconsider the decision.

"You need to have another look at why we have it and have a look at the demand that our community places on our healthcare professionals and you need to reassign it, because any chance that we have as a community of sustaining bulk billing, it's pretty much going out the window with this change," she said.

"You put a situation in the community where people start to question if they can go to the doctor, you then take a community that has high chronic health needs and you compound that.

"You put more pressure on the public hospital system, where people just present to emergency because that's there last resort, you put high demands on Ipswich hospital which we already know doesn't cope with the demands they're fielding because they simply cannot get the staff."

Minister for Regional Service Mark Coulton said under the changes, all doctors who bulk billed would continue to be eligible for standard bulk-billing incentives and the changes related to higher incentives only.

He said the incentives had been based on outdated 1991 population statistics.

"This change is about ensuring the latest data is used in our programs," he said.

"Rural and regional communities deserve the same access to high-quality health care services as those living in our big cities.

"This update aligns the geographical eligibility for higher bulk-billing incentives with other health programs and ensures they are correctly targeted to practitioners working in rural and remote areas, rather than in metropolitan areas or larger towns."

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