21 February 2024



REPORTER: What is the response to the Medicare data? I guess in your electorate, it is below the state and national average at the moment for bulk billing rates?

SHRON CLAYDON, MEMBER FOR NEWCASTLE: Yeah, in Newcastle we are working from a very low base on bulk billing after a decade of neglect and cuts into Medicare. We've really taken a big toll here in our region. I've watched the graph descend into a, you know, really a downward spiral for the last 10 years. It has stabilised now and there has been an uptick of 2.7% increase into bulk billing. Now, that's been an extra $60,000 in savings for people here in Newcastle. And that is in addition to the standing up again of the GP Access After Hours service, which is now operating across all five clinics and fully extended hours again. So at the Mater Hospital that you may recall the Morison government closed the GP access clinic at the Mater Hospital. That clinic alone, last December took 800 presentations, all bulk billed totally bulk billed. So, you know working from a low base, we absolutely want to see more and more uptake from our GPs. The tripling of the bulk billing incentive back on the first of November has stabilised and and allowed and, you know a recent uptick. We always want to do better. I'll be watching it very, very closely. And, you know, my ambition is that, you know, Medicare will be a basis for you know, access to affordable quality, primary health care for everyone.

REPORTER: I guess touching on that affordability aspect that some people have compared the gaps that they're paying to the incomes that are being felt in places like Sydney that I've seen similar figures but much higher average income. Is there anything that the government is doing to incentivise more practices to bulk bill and try and ease those cost of living pressures?

CLAYDON: Well, on the first of November, we tripled the incentive payments we provide to GPs and their practices to do bulk billing. That was targeted to very specific vulnerable cohorts. So specifically into every child under 16, there is an incentive for doctors to bulk bill so that families are not having to deal with multiple you know, when kids get sick they tend to all get sick, and that's a great relief for families. The other group is anyone with a Commonwealth concession card holders, so that's your pensioners anybody on income support, or Commonwealth seniors cards. You know, these are people with fixed incomes don't have a lot of discretionary spending money. They are part of the group that have been targeted for GPs to bulk bill. I've had some terrific feedback from constituents who are saying thank you for the first time you know, my doctor has finally started bulk billing me. So do we want more of that? Yes, absolutely. I do. I've got a great ambition to see an increase in our bulk billing rates.

REPORTER: Why do you think that Newcastle is lagging behind compared to other parts of the state?

CLAYDON: I don't actually know it's it's gonna require a bit of a deeper dive I think into that data. There are there are differences in incentive payments paid into rural and metros, but you're seeing differences within metros as well. So it's not, there's not a simple answer to this question. But it's, you know, my job really now is trying to really dig as far as we can talk into as many of our GP practices here in Newcastle to find out, you know, what can we do now to help lift bulk billing rates? We've, as I said, I know the impact of that decade of cuts and the freezing of rebates and the cuts into Medicare have been felt really badly and we have paid a really heavy price here in Newcastle for that neglect and those cuts. So we've got some extra heavy lifting to do to ensure that the people of Newcastle have got access to really affordable quality health care. Reinstituting that GP Access After Hours has been like phenomenally important. And that is 100% Vault built right. So there is always that safety net for people but we want to see those private practices come on board.

REPORTER: Do you believe in some instances that the murkiness between us being classified as a metro versus a regional rural area could be pulling to the detriment of receiving funding support and incentives?

CLAYDON: It's a it's a question I've thought a lot about and the only thing that you know I baulk on is that it's not as simple as that. I think because I can see not dissimilar areas in Metro parts of Western Sydney where their bulk billing rates are above 90%. So, you know, they are clearly Metro on the same kind of incentive payments that we are getting here in Newcastle, but a very, very different outcome. So there's a bit of work to be done. And the Health Minister, Mark Butler  and I are talking a lot about you know, how we, let's let's really monitor and find out what is going on here in Newcastle that makes it so different to other areas that are quite similar in every other respect

REPORTER: Perhaps considering re-Classification in some areas contribute to to fixing this issue.

CLAYDON: That's something we'll continue to discuss. But as I said, there are metro areas, which we are classified currently in Newcastle as Metro who are seeing much much bigger increases in bulk billing than what we're seeing in Newcastle, same payment from the government. So it's not a simple answer. But, you know, those conversations I'll have with local GPs will be really important in helping try and shape what is really going on on the ground here and how do we ensure that we secure good quality affordable health care, primary health care for all Novocastrians. You know, that's where we really want to invest our money. That's where the government's focus is. We invest in primary health care to try and keep people out of those tertiary systems, like emergency departments in hospitals. Thank you.