RACGP candidate speaks out at rally

4 minute read

Doctors mobilised in opposition to the Medicare rebate freeze at a rally in Hobart on Friday


Doctors have mobilised in opposition to the Medicare rebate freeze, with more than 200 people gathering at a lunchtime #SaveMedicare rally in Hobart on Friday

The rally was arranged by Unions Tasmania, which includes the Health & Community Services Union, Community & Public Sector Union and Australian Midwifery & Nursing Federation.

Professor Bastian Seidel, who is a Huon Valley GP and is currently in the running for the RACGP presidency, gave the following speech:

There should not be a need for me to be here today.

There should not be a rally to point out what cuts to health and to Medicare would mean to Tasmanians and the Tasmanian health system.

As a progressive and caring nation that wants to advance fair, fairness should be reflected on how we care for the sick and the ones in need. It should be self evident.

It is self evident to me. It is to you, and I am absolutely certain that it is to all Tasmanians who have had to seek medical attention, whether at a GP surgery or hospital.

85% of all Tasmanians see their GP at least once a year. And they need to see their GP in the community. But general practice is at breaking point. Ongoing cuts to funding make the delivery of quality care impossible.

But Tasmania carries the highest burden of chronic medical conditions. We are the oldest state in the Commonwealth.

So, having access to quality care is essential to staying well, to recovering quickly and to contribute to the fantastic communities in our state.

We don’t get sick on purpose. Nobody does. But when you are unwell, you need somebody who cares for you. You need highly qualified clinicians, nurses and carers to look after you.

It’s what you deserve, it’s what the community deserves, it is what Tasmania deserves and it’s what should be self-evident to the nation and the government.

But it is not.

Ongoing cuts to health and to Medicare are disastrous. The consequences will be felt by all. And it is time that political decision makers are held to account for their actions and inactions.

And it’s not that the government can’t afford it. Far from it. The government spends a measly $250 per person per year on General Practice Medicare item numbers. That’s it.

This is cheaper than the cheapest car insurance you get. So why would you introduce a GP tax? Because that’s what the extension of the Medicare freeze actually is. A GP tax.

The GP tax is not relevant for the ones who have a disposable income, who are independently wealthy or the ones who are well.

But this is the small minority of patients in Tasmania. The very small minority.

The vast majority of patients are in need of financial assistance.

If you are unwell, if you have a chronic medical condition, if you have a mental health condition that prevents you from gaining meaningful employment – you can’t afford out-of-pocket payments. You deserve to be bulk billed. You need to be bulk billed.

That is exactly why the bulk bill incentive was introduced for children, aged care pensioners, patients who receive a disability pension and patients who have a concession card in the first place.

The GP tax punishes those patients with the greatest need. This is unfair, it is unjust.

It is completely unnecessary and it is unethical.

Does the government want GPs to take an EFTPOS machine with them when they see patients in a nursing home? When they see palliative care patients, are they meant to present an invoice to them or ask for their credit card number when they are dying?

Health equity means that those patients deserve the same quality care as those with better financial means. Wealth should not determine your health. Funding health properly, lifting the Medicare rebate freeze would be first step, the right step, the appropriate signal to ensure that quality medical care can be accessed by all. This is what fairness is all about, this is what community is all about, and this is exactly what Australia should be all about.

So, please fight the Medicare rebate freeze, it is a co-payment by stealth. It is a GP tax. It is unnecessary and it needs to be reversed.”

Professor Bastian Seidel is a rural GP and the chair of the RACGP Tasmania Board

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