Rural doctors and patients left dangling
After hours medical care for patients in rural areas is under threat as the Gillard government refuses to reveal its funding plans when the current arrangement finishes next year.
“Rural doctors do a wonderful job in often difficult circumstances,” said Senator Ian Macdonald, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia.
“They deserve, and need, some certainty about the future of their after hours services.
“The Rural Doctors Association is rightly concerned that the new funding arrangements through Medicare Locals are still not finalised and the after hours services provided by their members may not be able to continue if the funding is not forthcoming.”
Previously funded under the Practice Incentives Program, after hours care in rural communities depends on a guaranteed level of funding from the Federal Government. The RDAA fears that the new funding arrangements under Medicare Local could well shift existing after hours services in small rural towns to centralise them in large regional centres, a significant downgrade.
“It isn’t good enough to leave the dedicated men and women who work tirelessly in country towns dangling in the breeze, not knowing their future,” Senator Macdonald said.
“Providing these services requires planning – it’s not something you can turn on and off like a tap.
“The Gillard government has no interest in the well-being of Australians who don’t live in the south east corner of the country.
“It would appear that on this issue, as on so many others, they have chosen to ignore the problem, simply making sweeping generalisations that funding will continue for some practices, but which ones and how much is still shrouded in mystery.
“It is simply not good enough to play ducks and drakes with people’s health and I call on the government to end this uncertainty immediately.”