TOUGH TIMES: Jeff Connor from Blackbutt Medical Centre warned the bulk billing freeze could send rural medicine backwards.
TOUGH TIMES: Jeff Connor from Blackbutt Medical Centre warned the bulk billing freeze could send rural medicine backwards. Danielle Lowe

Doctors under threat from bulk billing freeze

MEDICAL practices in the South Burnett could be forced to close unless the bulk billing freeze is scrapped.

That is the warning from Jeff Connor, from Blackbutt Medical Centre, which is in the firing line of the Federal Government's budget cuts.

"It is practices like Blackbutt and Yarraman that are hit the worst by this," Mr Connor said.

The rate the government pays for bulk billing patients was frozen from indexation in 2014 after the Abbott government scrapped plans for a $5 GP co-payment.

The freeze was continued until 2020 in the Federal Budget, and is estimated to save $925 million over four years.

But those savings will make it harder for rural medical centres that provide care to people with low incomes.

Mr Connor said 95% of the practice's patients were pension cardholders, healthcare cardholders or children under 16.

"To implement a mixed billing process would be extremely expensive," he said.

While the amount from the government would stay the same, Mr Connor said expenses, such as staffing and equipment had risen.

"It's just another way of hitting the GPs, it's another co-payment," he said.

The freeze has also come under fire from across the medical community, including the Australian Medical Association and the Rural Doctors Association of Australia.

RDAA president Dr Ewen McPhee said the freeze had already had a devastating impact on rural medicine.