UNDER THE PUMP: Doctors are overworked, Gladstone Medical Centre says.
UNDER THE PUMP: Doctors are overworked, Gladstone Medical Centre says. lenetstan

Why local medical centre made cuts to bulk billing

ASSISTANT practice manager Stephen Oriel has responded to a complaint made to The Observer last Friday about the reduction in bulk billing services offered at Gladstone Medical Centre in Clinton.

Mr Oriel, who is responsible for both GMC and Harbour City Family Practice on Toolooa St, said the move was necessary to reduce the number of patients they offered bulk billing to in order to relieve the pressure on overworked doctors who couldn't keep up with patient numbers.

"Among the medical centres we've seen a very big jump in people who've moved from interstate because of lower rents (in the Gladstone region)," he said.

"Gladstone Valley Medical Centre closed pretty much overnight (in September last year) - they had three to four doctors.

"We had a sudden burst of everybody who had been seeing the doctors at the Valley, and Calliope (Medical Centre) had closed down two months prior to that."

Mr Oriel said as a result of the increase in numbers, regular patients were waiting up to two weeks to get an appointment because all the doctors were booked out.

The waiting time was even worse for those requesting a female doctor.

"At no point in time did either practice ever say 'no' to anybody," Mr Oriel said.

"But we were not able to function so that (reducing bulk billing) was the only way of trying to regulate things."

The new fee system was brought into effect at Harbour City Family Practice on March 4 and at Gladstone Medical Centre at the end of March.

Under the new fee arrangements patients under 16 and over 65 are still bulk-billed.

Patients outside those age groups with a government health card pay a discounted $50 fee (with a standard rebate of $37) while private patients pay the full $75 fee (again with standard rebate) for a standard consultation.

"We don't bill a lot of people privately," Mr Oriel said.

"A lot of patients at the end of the day (get bulk-billed). It's up to the doctor.

"We are more than happy to do it."