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  • Writer's pictureMagnetic Community News

Magnetic Island pensioners, low income earners hit in the back pocket

Pictured above: Clements Medical Practice on Magnetic Island

Debbie Denison

Pensioners and low income earners will face extra financial burdens to their household budgets next year as they will be charged to see our GP. The fee will be $65, with a rebate of $39 from Medicare leaving them $26 out of pocket for each visit.

As from the January 1, 2023 Clements Medical practice will cease bulk billing pensioners, HHC, disabled and children under 12 years old. Exceptions will be DVA card holders , Chronic Disease Care Plans and Health Assessments and they will charge private fees for all other clients who will then have to lodge a claim with Medicare themselves.

Dr. Clements told the MCN “The decision to charge fees came with a heavy heart and we are well aware of the impact it might have on some residents on accessing care, but we were simply left with no choice given the Federal government’s policy of not increasing Medicare rebates”.

Member for Herbert Phillip Thompson told the MCN: “A number of Magnetic Island residents have contacted my office about this issue. As people know from the extensive work we’ve done together to enable access to medical services on the Island over the last few years, I am very supportive of good and affordable GP care being available to residents.”

Contrary to the belief of many, Dr. Clements said: “There was never a commitment to either the community or to the QLD government for bulk billing being permanent.

“I am aware the State member made public assertions at the time that a ‘deal’ was done, but there was nothing other than a commercial rental agreement for use of a facility.”

Currently the Townsville Hospital and Health Service has a commercial lease arrangement in place for the leasing of the building located at 68 Sooning Street to allow for the ongoing operation of the medical practice.

The MCN inquired about the contract between Qld Health and Clements Medical we were told the details of any agreements between the health service and Clements Medical are commercial-in-confidence.

Townsville Hospital and Health Service chief executive Kieran Keyes told the MCN: “The Townsville Hospital and Health Service (HHS) is one of the main health care providers on Magnetic Island and continues to work collaboratively with the privately operated Clements Medical to ensure the community has ongoing access to both primary health care and emergency care”.

The MCN asked what health care services Qld Health offered on the island at the Clinic, Townsville Hospital and Health Service chief executive Kieran Keyes told the MCN “The Townsville HHS Magnetic Island Primary Care Clinic provides 24/7 emergency medical care. An experienced nurse and doctor staff the clinic during business hours Monday to Friday and on Saturday mornings. Staff are also on call after hours to support the community when the clinic is closed. Townsville HHS doctors based in Townsville provide back-up support to the clinic as required.

“On Magnetic Island, Townsville HHS provides immunisations, children’s health services, antenatal and postnatal care, sexual health services, as well as wound assessments and dressings.

“A dedicated women’s health nurse, clinical social worker, chronic kidney disease team and BreastScreen also visit this facility regularly.”

Dr. Clements said: “I am open to working with QLD Health and the Federal Government on a solution that will see the protection of bulk billing to pensioners and children. There are a number of ways QLD Health and the Federal government can contribute and fill the gap between Medicare rebates and the increasing costs of providing care. In other words, if QLD Health or the Federal Government wanted to secure a bulk billing service on the island I am open to renegotiating the contract terms to achieve this. But I cannot continue to operate using the Medicare rebates alone while having increases in all the normal costs of business.”

Member for Herbert Phillip Thompson told the MCN: “I have written to the Federal Labor Health Minister to raise this issue and asked for all options to be explored.

“I want people to be able to access a GP, and I will work with the community, medical professionals and the government on achieving a solution.”

Member for Townsville Scott Stewart stated “I was proud to work with Queensland Health and a private practice to secure medical services for Magnetic Island in 2020. Bulk billing is a matter for the Federal Government and I have written to the Federal Health Minister about this to see if anything can be done for the Magnetic Island community.”

Dr. Clements concluded by saying “Should the community wish to secure a bulk billing service for their community members I suggest they lobby and advocate with their Federal and State Members.”

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