Plan to charge $7 doctor payment risks health in outback

OUTBACK Australians could have their health put at risk by the Abbott government's plan to charge a few extra dollars each time for every visit to the local GP, according to a national body of experts.

The National Rural Health Alliance is describing the government's treatment of the bush in its budget as "pretty crook".

NRHA executive director Gordon Gregory said in regional and remote areas relying on a single GP, the use of a $7 payment will only increase the burden on medicos.

He said for the sick and poor, a GP may feel they have no choice but to waive the proposed $7 co-payment fee.

Charging a fee for GP visits might also discourage the sick from seeking preventative treatment, a problem already rife in parts of regional Queensland and New South Wales.

Data from the NRHA shows those in bush areas are twice as likely to come to hospital with preventable conditions when compared with their metropolitan counterparts.

With these new imposts put on regional Australians already struggling with lower incomes, education and disability access, Mr Gregory said "the situation for rural people is pretty crook".

He said rural and remote Australia can be the best place in the world to live, but not if the government forces them to give more than they have.

Deputy Prime Minister, Nationals Leader and Wide Bay MP Warren Truss declined to discuss the proposed changes, referring questions to Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash.

Senator Nash said the government was boosting places for medical interns at a cost of $40 million over four years.

It would also spend $52.5 million to help regional and rural GP practices to increase their facilities.

"One of the best things we can do for the bush is to fix the economic mess left by the previous Labor Government," Senator Nash said.

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