Health system under strain

Labor MPs say $7 GP charge will hurt

STATE Labor MPs Maree Edwards and Jacinta Allan have criticised Federal Budget changes to the health system.

During a press conference outside Bendigo Health's emergency department on Thursday, Ms Edwards said the new $7 co-payment for GP visits and medical tests would place further strain on Bendigo families.

"But more importantly, it's going to put strain on our emergency departments because people will not be able to afford to go to their local GP, they will naturally go to their emergency department for treatment," she said.

"So while we're already seeing a crisis in our emergency departments here ... a GP co-payment will actually make the situation much worse. Families who bear the brunt of this tax just won't be able to afford to go to the doctor."

Ms Edwards and fellow Labor MP Jacinta Allan said "local patients are feeling the impact of Liberal cuts".

"Bendigo Hospital is already reeling from the $831 million cuts from the Victorian Health Budget by Denis Napthine and his Liberal National government," Ms Allan said.

"Tony Abbott has now made things even tougher and as part of his Liberal National government's $50 billion health cuts he has ripped at least $693 million from hospitals through the National Health Reform Agreement over four years and $240 million from hospitals, preventative health, and dental programs over four years."

Patron Senator for Bendigo Michael Ronaldson responded to Ms Edwards and Ms Allan's concerns and said the Abbott government was strengthening Medicare to ensure Australians could continue to affordably access world-class healthcare services.

“The government will continue to subsidise all Medicare services, the $7 contribution is just a small part of the cost of the service for which the government pays more than $30 for a typical GP consultation under the new arrangements," he said.

Mr Ronaldson said federal funding for public hospitals would still grow significantly – "from $14 billion in 2013-14 to $18.9 billion in 2017-18 under the Coalition government".

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