Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: I would like as few people as possible to die from Covid-19 in 2022 – so feel free to groan a bit (I know I have over the last two years), but please get your booster, wash your hands, wear a mask, and stay home if you’re sick plus get swabbed.

Now, down to the other business.

I would like high quality GP services to be available and affordable for all people. We know this is the best way to keep our communities healthy. We try to do this in our own small way at CCFP, but at a broader level it is getting harder and harder for patients to access care in their communities. Especially for patients with chronic diseases and mental health conditions, and especially if they are not wealthy. It is because there has been a crushing lack of Federal attention to funding GPs/primary care for over a decade (the State funds hospital/secondary care and ambulances, the Federal government funds primary care).

Ever wonder why it feels harder to see your preferred GP? In 2016 there were about 150 GPs for every 100k people living in Queensland, now this is significantly reduced with only 125 GPs to serve 100k people. Not only are there less GPs available but is it more expensive than ever to see a GP – this is because the Federal rebate that you use to help cover the cost of medical care has remained largely unchanged in the last 10 years while costs of delivering care have steadily grown. This means patients need to fund more and more of their own health care. That is OK if you can afford $75 out of pocket each time you visit the GP, but not everyone is that fortunate.

Let me give you some examples: it costs about $500/hour to keep a small General Practice (like CCFP) open. The government rebate for a patient having a Level B (up to 20 minutes) consult with a GP is $39.10. How does this add up? Another comparison – a GP’s professional fees to remain registered and insured add up to quite a few thousand dollars. For the average GP it takes over 200 Level B consults at the bulk-billed rate to earn enough just to stay registered for one year! Again, it doesn’t add up, and it is one reason why skilled doctors are either choosing not to train as specialist GPs or are leaving the profession in droves.

If you agree that primary health care is important for our communities but can no longer withstand such neglect, please ask Santa for the same as me. In addition to asking Santa, you might also be able to let your Federal MP know how important it is that primary health care is adequately supported (especially as 2022 is a Federal election year). 


Dr Cath Hester