TOUGH CHOICES: Belinda Brodie and her partner Ken Templeman are are faced with either fuelling the car or going to the doctor now their local clinic has stopped bulk billing.
TOUGH CHOICES: Belinda Brodie and her partner Ken Templeman are are faced with either fuelling the car or going to the doctor now their local clinic has stopped bulk billing. Julia Bartrim

Patients on Newstart forced to pay full fee

GLADSTONE residents Belinda Brodie and her partner Ken Templeman say they feel they're being treated like third-class citizens.

The couple who receive government payments, rely on Gladstone Medical Centre in Ballantine St, Clinton, to bulk bill.

But its recent announcement to cease bulk billing (for people aged 16-65) has sent them into a spin.

Belinda saw the sign at the medical centre "probably a few weeks ago" and questioned a staff member about it.

"We were told to go talk to (politicians) - that it's not (coming from) 'us'," she said.

"I probably wont even go in next week because I won't have the money."

Belinda and Ken are both on Newstart after sustaining injuries at work.

Neither said they met the eligibility criteria for the Disability Support Pension.

Belinda was injured while working as a cleaner. The repetitive manual tasks saw her develop rotor cuff disease and tear tissue in both elbows.

Ken sustained a back injury 15 years ago in an incident with a forklift.

He was told by a doctor at the time that his back pain would only get worse.

The doctor was right but Ken kept working anyway until about two years ago when he said the pain got too much.

He takes a mix of oxytocin, tramadol and lyrica to control it but said regardless he was still "in agony".

He said he sometimes needed to go to the doctor up to four times a week.

"I can't afford to go," he said.

"I just can't afford it. So I just don't worry about it (the pain).

"If it gets too bad I'll just go back to the hospital."

Belinda said she too relied on the hospital as a backup.

She went to Gladstone Hospital on Wednesday because she didn't have the money for the doctors.

"It's just ridiculous people are going to end up going to the hospital because they can't afford (a doctor) then when people really do need to be looked after up there (at the hospital), they can't do it," she said.

As reported previously in The Observer, almost half the cases presenting in Gladstone Hospital's emergency department could be handled through a GP.

The list of GP-type cases included ankle sprains, cut fingers, toothaches and foot sprains.

Belinda said the couple had to choose between basic household items and doing the best thing for their health.

"You've got to prioritise everything - OK next week we won't put fuel in the car because we've got to go to the doctors, that's what you've got to do," she said noting that rent always had to come first.

Ken said the medical centre had offered to create an account for them.

Ken said he couldn't see the point: "We are still going to end up with a big bill we can't afford to pay."

The couple don't want to go elsewhere as they're happy with the doctor they see and all their records are at the centre.

Gladstone Medical Centre was contacted for comment but did not respond by deadline.