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Squeeze on GPs

Monday, 14th October, 2013

By By Andrew Robertson

A local GP has taken a swipe at plans by the RFDS to open a primary healthcare clinic, likening it to another federally-funded Superclinic that established practices will have to compete against.

The South Eastern Section has secured $500,000 in Commonwealth funding to transform its base at the airport into a not-for-profit clinic that will be staffed by one GP, a registrar and a nurse.

Initially only people registered as patients with the RFDS, along with staff and their families, will be able to use the bulk-bill-only clinic when it opens in April next year.

But the SE Section’s general manager of health services, Linda Cutler, said last month that the clinic could eventually be open to the general public.  

Dr Ramu Nachiappan, who has a practice in the town square, is less than impressed by the Flying Doctor’s foray into general practice medicine courtesy of federal government funding.

“I notice with concern that the RFDS ... have taken the liberty of entering into Broken Hill general practice services as our competitors,” Dr Nachiappan said.

“Is this necessary?”

He questioned the fairness of the Commonwealth government funding general practices which then competed against existing private operators.

“This is similar to the GP Superclinic program. A practice in Broken Hill received over $7 million in funding and continues to operate in direct competition to other practices already established, including my own.

“How are these federally-funded services benefitting our community?

“Are they accountable?

Dr Nachiappan also dismissed suggestions it was difficult for people to see a doctor who bulk billed, saying his practice had vacant appointments almost daily.

He said locals traditionally went to the hospital casualty department instead of their GP because they assumed there are no appointments available.

South Eastern section executive director Clyde Thomson said outback property patients of the RFDS complained they had trouble seeing a doctor when they came to Broken Hill.  

Dr Nachiappan said the RFDS was facing a dilemma with its expansion plans.

“Do they wish to ultimately lose their federal funding by engaging in Medicare fee for service?

“If so, can they rationalise federal funding for their development ... in direct competition with the self funded GPs of this community?”

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