Home' South Gippsland Sentinel-Times : February 14, 2017 Edition Contents PAGE 8 - THE SOUTH GIPPSLAND SENTINEL-TIMES, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2017
The essence of universal health care is the idea that the ability of a person to
access a good standard of heath care is dependent on their health need and
should not be determined by the ability of the individual to pay for it. The
Australian Medicare system and its bulk-billing provisions is an attempt to
achieve this ideal.
During the 1990s many rural medical practices abandoned bulk-billing because
the rebate, which is the amount Medicare pays for a consultation with the doctor,
had become too low relative to the costs of providing the service. The Federal
government then introduced measures to increase the rebates and where the
patient is under 16, a pensioner or a health care card holder it included
supplementary payments to the doctors in rural areas. As a result many rural
practices returned to bulk billing these patients, Wonthaggi Medical Group was
one such practice.
General Practitioners are at the front line of health and this is where their skills
and proper care and advice can save the health system many millions of dollars.
How do they do this? Firstly, by carefully listening to and examining the patient
about the actual problem and selecting the right course of action to treat and
manage the health problem. It also involves educating the patient; explaining
that perhaps that expensive MRI test, CT scan or blood test is not going to change
what we already know or the proposed treatment plan. It could for example,
involve explaining to the patient that they have a viral infection and that
antibiotics are not a solution because they are ineffective against viruses and that
simple rest , fluids and paracetamol is the order of the day. Secondly, by
encouraging preventative health measures. This includes encouraging
immunisation or counseling the patient to make changes to a lifestyle that may
so often be at the root of their health problems or encouraging the patient to
participate in health screening programs for the early detection of cancer or
Put simply, GPs who are able to spend time with their patients can prevent them
from ending up in hospital with acute problems that demand expensive
intervention and costly long term treatment. General practice takes up around
seven percent of the total health budget which is, on any measure, money well
Yet bulk billing fees for GP consultations have been frozen for almost 3 years and
under government policy will remain frozen until late in 2020 making a total of
six years without an increase.
Recently I read a web based article that provided a GP's perspective on the
ongoing freeze of the Medicare rebates. It was published on the web site
https://thatladydoctor.com under the heading "What I do for thirty seven
dollars and five cents" and I advise everyone who has access to the internet to
It is inevitable that if Medicare Rebates remain frozen until 2020 it will spell the
end of bulk billing in rural areas and result in the reintroduction of substantial
out of pocket costs to see your GP. The alternative is that GPs will have to see
more patients and give patients far less time than at present. This latter choice
will result in a deterioration of general medical practice that will cost the
Australian government much more in the long run, treating patients who with
the right intervention could have been treated much earlier for far less.
Already patients face substantial costs for Radiology and in many cases
Pathology. In effect access to good health care is fast becoming dependent on
the content of one's wallet rather than medical need.
A few years ago I wrote an article for 'Healthwatch' that had the title "A Rural
Doctors Life - An Insider Perspective" It spoke of the advanced generalist skills
that Rural GPs must have and of their dedication and commitment to the
community. It highlighted the many hours of on-call work that our GPs put in to
support the local hospital and of their anaesthetic skills that support a variety of
visiting specialists to come to the area and of their commitment to ensuring the
local area retains an obstetrics service.
If we are to retain the commitment of rural doctors, encourage enthusiastic new
recruits to General Medical Practice, provide quality medical services and
furthermore to do this while ensuring universal access to health; then the
Medicare Rebates need to be unfrozen and increased in line with the rising costs
of medical practice.
What other working person would be prepared to accept that what they are paid
should be frozen for six years?
(Note : The views expressed in this article is a personal view based on the
authors knowledge and long experience within the health sector, they do not
purport to represent the views of the Wonthaggi Medical Group).
42 Murray Street, Wonthaggi
25 a’Beckett Street, Inverloch
Are we witnessing the end
of universal access to
health care? An Insider's
By John Turner B Soc. Welf.,
Master Intl & Community Development, MAAPM
(Article courtesy of Wonthaggi Medical Group, 42 Murray St, Wonthaggi)
INVERLOCH has its very own sausage king,
after Inverloch Quality Meats’ Brad Turner’s
Lamb sausage won the Victorian gold medal
in its section at the Australian Meat Industry
The butcher will now be vying for the best
Australian lamb sausage as a finalist in the Na-
tional Sausage King title at Hobart this Satur-
day, February 18.
Brad sources lamb from Radford Abattoirs at
Warragul and said there’s no special secret for
his lamb and rosemary sausages.
“It’s just 30 years in the trade. We’ve mucked
around a bit to try and get it right, and now we
feel like we’ve got it right,” he said.
“It’s a big thing for a butcher to be able to have
good sausages. Sausages are a big trade in a butch-
er’s shop. Everyone loves a snag on the barby.
“We try and make good snags and hopefully
we come home with the goods next weekend.”
After winning their way through regional
and state rounds, 31 finalists from around the
country will be hoping to snag victory in the
grand final cook off at Hobart.
The annual event will be contested across six
categories – Traditional Australian, Tradition-
al Australian Pork, Poultry, Australian Lamb/
Open Class, Continental and Gourmet/Open
Judges will score both raw and cooked sau-
sages, grading them for flavour and texture as
well as shrinkage, splitting and crinkling.
Contestants must also ensure that their sau-
sages meet Australian Food Standards Code by
containing at least 50 per cent fat free meat.
Organised by the Australian Meat Industry
Council (AMIC), the competition attracts huge
interest from the nation’s 3200 independent
butchers and is widely regarded as the meat
industry’s premier competition.
AMIC executive director, Paul Sandercock
said every year they’re amazed at the interest
they receive from butchers across Australia,
from country towns to capital cities.
“It’s an event that gets bigger and better and
shows that butchers still play an important role
in the community,” he said.
And the statistics prove it.
Each year, Australians spend $660 million
on about 94 million kilograms of sausages and
despite the growing popularity of gourmet va-
rieties, the traditional beef banger remains the
While a new National Sausage King will be
crowned, the weekend will also include the Best
Butcher’s Burger contest and the awarding of
the acclaimed AMIC National Apprentice of the
Inverloch Quality Meats’ Jack Bolitho and Brad Turner celebrate the butcher shop’s suc-
cess in winning the gold medal for their lamb sausage at Australian Meat Industry Council
Victorian awards. The butcher will now be vying for the best Australian lamb sausage as a
finalist in the National Sausage King title at Hobart this Saturday. rg020717
Inverloch’s sausage king
PUSHED to their limit by what they say is
unfair pressure to look for non-existent jobs,
16 people voted to form the Wonthaggi branch
of the Australian Unemployed Workers Union
at an Unemployed Rights workshop recently.
Participants came from as far away as
Churchill and Phillip Island to discuss Work
for the Dole, voluntary work and the mutual
obligations of job seekers and service provid-
“We heard many heart-rending tales of peo-
ple caught in the catch-22 of having to apply
for jobs while suffering serious health condi-
tions,” organiser Jessica Harrison said.
“There are now a number of groups formed
to support people owing money after receiving
incorrect Centrelink ‘debt’ notices and there
are lawyers offering help.
“We are supporting people who are in this
“We hope the new branch of the Australian
Unemployed Workers Union will work to-
wards a just outcome for everyone affected.”
Bass Coast Shire councillor Geoff Ellis at-
tended the workshop and said for many years
he has noted that Centrelink is increasing the
burden on recipients while decreasing the
amenity of the service.
“Long queues and lengthy phone calls are
now standard,” he said.
“The smaller towns in our region have no
permanent offices so people must attend pop-
up offices or use phone and internet services
to provide information and complete forms.
“Many of the people are now being confront-
ed by the imposition of an alleged debt and
the consequent inquisition is not well served
“If they don’t have a computer or an internet
connection they have to use their local library
as a de facto Centrelink office.
“With the decline of full time employment,
increase of casual work and general under-
employment, the trend towards income top-
up payments is increasing.
“Manufacturing jobs are now few and far be-
tween and locally there is constant pressure
on dairy farmers to reduce labour through
“A large number of us are likely to interact
with Centrelink at some stage. People need
to be treated with respect and fairly guided
through the process.”
AUWU’s Owen Bennet welcomed the Wont-
haggi branch, which is the 41st local branch
of the union.
Unsure of your rights and obligations?
Need help or just want to share the burden?
The first meeting for the Wonthaggi branch
of the Australian Unemployed Workers Union
will be held on Monday, March 6 at 1pm at
Wonthaggi Neighbourhood House, 6 Murray
Kids are welcome.
Members who voted to form the Won-
thaggi branch of the Australian Unem-
ployed Workers Union, which will fight for
unemployed workers’ rights.
Union to support
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