24 May 2024

ACT Greens to establish four fully bulk-billing GP clinics to deliver 160,000 free doctor's visits (if they win)

| Claire Fenwicke
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mother and child in doctor's office

If elected, the ACT Greens’ plan would provide more fully bulk-billed doctor appointments across Canberra. Photo: ACT Health.

The ACT Greens have promised to set up four bulk-billing GP clinics across Canberra in four years if they win the next election.

The party’s health policy is centred around increasing healthcare access and relieving pressures related to the cost of living.

ACT Greens health spokesperson Emma Davidson said too many Canberrans were struggling to access free healthcare early.

“Most people don’t get free healthcare until they get to the hospital emergency department. That’s too late,” she said.

“We don’t have enough bulk-billing GPs. The ones we have are booked out for weeks … let’s get back to delivering truly universal healthcare.”

The two clinics would be established in the north and another two in the south inside existing ACT Government-owned properties.

It’s expected the fit-outs would cost $1.5 million.

The ACT’s low bulk billing rate is partly related to the low number of doctors per capita.

Ms Davidson said this new model would be attractive to doctors already in Canberra and beyond.

“For GPs who might want to balance their clinical work with other aspects of their life … what we’re offering through our free bulk-billing clinics is the opportunity to do that without having to worry about running a practice and being able to set their own hours,” she said.

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The clinics would provide routine health appointments for all health-related matters such as vaccinations, check-ups, and sexual health and family planning.

The ACT Greens’ plan would see medical receptionists employed by the government on secure permanent contracts and would cover all costs associated with running the clinic, including maintenance and cleaning.

Another $2 million per year would be budgeted to operate all four clinics.

“Any registered GP can register to work at a GP clinic and see patients on the condition that all appointments are bulk billed. The GP would be self-employed and receive 100 per cent of the MBS payment,” the policy stated.

“Because the clinics will be fully bulk billed, they will not be subject to GP payroll tax.”

The policy is expected to deliver more than 160,000 bulk-billed appointments each year, based on the theory that each clinic has eight doctors, and each doctor sees three patients an hour.

It’s hoped this would bridge a gap between the ACT’s nurse-led walk-in centres and hospital emergency departments as places to receive free healthcare.

“People are consistently telling us they are deferring health appointments. The result of this is they don’t get healthcare when they need it, and end up in crisis down the line,” ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said.

“This is about making sure people have the full spectrum of services available to them free of charge – a genuinely universal healthcare system.”

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The second half of the health policy is focused on care for Canberrans with chronic conditions.

The ACT Greens would partner the government with interested GPs to develop their skills and expertise in specific conditions to provide ongoing, free, specialist care to people with long-term illnesses.

It’s proposed the first two conditions in the program would be mental health and musculoskeletal conditions.

This aspect has been costed at $1 million per year to facilitate the upskilling of special interest GPs.

ACT Greens Murrumbidgee candidate Harini Rangarajan said people with chronic health conditions usually need more support on their health journey, but it could be difficult to find a doctor who understands their needs.

“By improving access to doctors who have expert knowledge in mental health and musculoskeletal conditions, we can reduce hospital admissions and keep many more people in Canberra living their best lives and doing the things they love,” she said.

Participating GPs would be expected to provide de-identified population health data to ACT Health about how to best support people with particular long-term conditions.

Future phases to expand the program to other conditions such as cancer, neurological and cardiovascular conditions would be considered.

The entire policy is costed at $9.9 million over the next term of the Assembly.

ACT Labor health spokesperson and current health minister Rachel Stephen-Smith described the Greens’ policy as an “interesting” one that her party would consider.

“However, it does raise some concerns. There is a risk of GPs moving around the ACT undermining our existing valued general practices rather than bringing new workforce into the ACT,” she said.

“ACT Labor has always been the party of free and accessible public healthcare. We’re making record investments across the ACT public health system so Canberrans can access the right healthcare in the right place and at the right time.”

ACT Labor has already pledged to hire 800 healthcare workers if re-elected, with more health promises to come.

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ACT Greens also promised “fiscal responsibility and the maintenance of a balanced budget through the economic cycle”. Greens seduce voters with flowers and chocolates, secure their vote, then ignore them in the morning.

Incidental Tourist8:36 am 27 May 24

Greens “progressively” tripled rates, land tax and GP tax eliminating bulk billing first. The money were wasted on stuff like never delivered HR system and alike. And then they promise 4 GPs bulk billing – one GP per 100,000 residents. You won’t be able to use it. But you will surely pay for it through more costs slapped on GPs you are visiting. A most effective way is to undo GP tax and rewind land taxes which will make most GPs bulk billing again.

So both Greens and Labor promising something that someone else will deliver. When they don’t deliver they’ll just claim that they couldn’t get the staff.

Why wait till the election, they are both in power. Are they going to let criminals go if they don’t get elected. Seems like emotional ransom.

If this is a core promise, it will certainly get strong support from the electorate. It’s what the people need now, and it won’t cost an arm and a leg like LR.

GrumpyGrandpa7:32 pm 25 May 24

“ACT Labor health spokesperson and current health minister Rachel Stephen-Smith described the Greens’ policy as an “interesting” one that her party would consider”.

What a load of political rubbish.

How is it that the ALP, 5 months from an election, finds the money for an extra 800 health workers? 🤔 Is this an admission that they have been underfunding health?

As for the Greens’ health policy, it’s easy to promise the world when you know you won’t have to be in power and fund your policies.

What a load of bs greens could deliver milk if they had the truck to do it.we can’t get drs let alone get drd to sign up to bulk billing, it’s ALL about getting Medicare updated and the drs will reward patients wake up

So the Communist Greens promise to have Bulk Billing clinics in the ACT? Bulk Billing of course 100% funded by the Federal Government. Talk about an underwhelming promise and a promise that a number of GP Clinics in Canberra already supplies.

Where are all those GPs coming from?
When there is a WORLDWIDE shortage of medical professionals, of all kinds, where are they going to get all these people from?

The Canberra Communist Party will give away more ratepayers money.

So they’ve done three fifths of five eights of nothing but hey an election is coming up so Rattenbury suddenly has a plan.

The Greens only deliver hot air

Yes, but it’s carbon free hot air, Fp.

I wish everyone would stop calling bulk-billed doctor visits “free”. They are not free. Never have been. Wage and salary earners pay a Medicare levy as well as other income tax and GST. Everyone else contributes to the tax base through GST. We all pay taxes in one form or another.

The Medicare rebate might not be enough to cover the running costs of doctors, but that is about the politics of what gets funded through federal & state budgets. The amount of revenue the government collects from ordinary Australians is more than is returned through Medicare rebates. They need to stop shaming people into thinking people accessing basic healthcare is a somehow looking for a freebie.


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