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Catholic Health questions Labor's 24 hour doctor plan

Catholic Health Australia (CHA) welcomed yesteray's announcement of Labor's policy for Improved Access to Medicare Services, but said it's pointless if it is not properly funded with a major injection into the medical benefits schedule.

Under the ALP plan, people would be able to ring a national after-hours hotline for instant advice or referral to a doctor. The plan would also add more than 20 after-hours GP clinics at public hospitals to ease the patient burden on overstretched emergency wards.

CHA CEO Francis Sullivan said: "If Labor wants to restore the rate of bulk billing, then patients need the certainty that their Medicare benefit will meet or go very close to paying for the cost of the service."

"An under funded program will hurt the very people Labor seeks to protect- those on low incomes and people needing to use the GP often," he said.

"It is crucial that Labor demonstrate its bone fides with a substantial investment package for Medicare that ensures it not only is 'saved' but that it is robust and effective in meeting the costs of health care for all Australians.'

"CHA estimates that along with a sound workforce strategy, Labor must increase the incentive for bulk billing to $10 per visit per patient to restore the rate to 80% of all visits. This will mean a further $480 million annually on top of the present government program."

Medicare Needs Investment, Not Just More Outlets (Catholic Health Australia 21/7/04)

Labor promises 24-hour medical care - anywhere (Sydney Morning Herald 22/7/04)

22 Jul 2004