CLOSING the gap in Aboriginal health faces setbacks if Australians are forced to pay to see a GP, south-west health groups fear.
South-west organisations have echoed national concerns that the $7 co-payment for GPs could further widen the health gap for Aboriginal Australians.
The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) is this week launching a campaign against the move — still yet to clear the Senate.
Winda Mara Corporation chief executive Michael Bell said the payment would place a barrier in front of people trying to use its clinic and undermine health prevention.
“We will struggle with the co-payment. Getting Aboriginal people to come to our service has been a significant achievement,” Mr Bell said.
“We’ve had a steady growth in the number of people using the clinic and over 90 per cent of those people are low-income earners.” South-west Aboriginal groups attended meetings in Melbourne last Wednesday on how to respond to the shake up.
Kirrae Health Services chairman Brian Davis there was some uncertainty over a shake-up of Aboriginal health funding.
“We really don’t know what’s been included at this stage or where we’re going to be,” Mr Davis said.
“Hopefully we’ll survive.”
Kirrae runs health checks, aged care and childcare programs. “Our main funding is federal,” Mr Davis said.
Meanwhile, Great South Coast Medicare Local is reminding people that the fees are yet to be passed through the Senate.
“Patients do not yet have to pay their GPs the $7 co-payment which has been much in the news post-budget,” chief executive Glenda Stanislaw said.
“Assuming it passes the Senate (and there is a lot of resistance), it will begin from July 2015.”
“At present there is no change to bulk billing or private fee structures for GPs.”