Battlers face medical dilemma

Salvation Army spokesman Bruce Redman said those figures could worsen because the federal government had ignored the needs of Australia’s most vulnerable in its recent budget.

An area of concern for the group is the announcement of a $7 fee for GP consultations and increased in the cost of medicine.

‘The reality (is that) 23 per cent of those surveyed for our report already couldn’t afford medical treatment when needed, and 36 per cent were unable to buy medicines prescribed by the doctor,’ he said.

‘The $7 fee might just tip more of them over into avoiding a basic doctor’s visit or essential pathology.’

Hamilton Hill Salvation Army Lieutenant Ronald Stobie agreed, saying many of his customers suffered long-term illnesses and would struggle to find extra money in their already low incomes to cover their medical costs.

Health Minister Peter Dutton said consultation charges would remain at the doctor’s discretion.

‘The Government has retained bulk billing and doctors remain free to bulk bill patients just as they do now,’ he said.

‘People with concession cards will have the $7 contribution capped at 10 visits to doctors. After that, their treatment should be free.’

Dr Redman said another area of concern was tighter restrictions on Newstart and Youth Allowance payments.

‘The realities of unemployment can be incredibly complex, with many of those we assist facing multiple barriers to employment,’ he said.

‘The reality is that people on low incomes are not weighing up the economics of whether or not they will go an overseas holiday, but instead they will be weighing up whether or not they have the money to see the doctor when necessary or using that $7 to pay for bread to feed (their) family for the week.’

A spokeswoman for Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews said changes to welfare payments would ensure the social security system is sustainable.