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Can't afford a GP? Just head to hospital: Christensen

Nationals Member for Dawson George Christensen at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, February 14, 2018.
Nationals Member for Dawson George Christensen at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, February 14, 2018. AAP Image - Mick Tsikas

A  FEDERAL MP says those unable to afford a visit to the GP can save money by instead presenting to hospital emergency departments.

Dawson MP George Christensen said it was everyone's right to use public hospital emergency departments for all health concerns as an alternative to paying to see a general practitioner, although it was not preferred.

It comes after new Health Department data released to a federal Senate estimates committee showed Mr Christensen's electorate was the second most expensive in the state, with patients forking out $39.40 to see a GP and $77.29 for a specialist.

"There is an option for people to present at the hospital emergency department to save costs," Mr Christensen said.

The Queensland Government in April 2017 rebooted a campaign aimed at discouraging Queenslanders from ­attending EDs with GP-type ailments to take the pressure off emergency departments.

"The problem is you're there for hours waiting, but it still is everyone's right to do it; (hospitals) can't refuse," Mr Christensen said.

"The public health system has got to treat everyone that turns up with a health problem - that's why we have it."

He said he would be having conversations with Queensland Health and the private health sector but there was "no magic wand" to tackle costly visits to the GP.

"I am going to ensure that those conversations happen ... because if they don't happen the problem won't be fixed," he said. "My electorate has got a lot of rural poor and working poor families in it."

Dawson takes in Ayr, Bowen, Mackay, Proserpine and the Townsville suburbs of Annandale, Oonoonba, Wulguru, Idalia and Stuart.

"I wouldn't doubt that if we see a continual decline of bulk billing in regional Australia a future government will come on board with a policy that ­forces doctors to bulk bill for certain categories of patients," Mr Christensen said.

Herbert Cathy O'Toole MP described the national problem as "criminal" and called on the Federal Government to lift the Medicare rebate freeze ­immediately.

"We have a situation where the Medicare freeze is impacting on who can see a doctor," Ms O'Toole said. "(George) talks the big game when he's in Dawson but when he's in Canberra he's Malcolm Turnbull's lapdog. He needs to get some guts and stand up for this.

"It is not fair that pensioners and low-income families are choosing between whether or not they can go to the doctor."

But Mr Christensen was not convinced lifting the freeze would resolve the issue.

"Someone give me a guarantee that lifting the freeze on bulk billing will work and I'll be there with bells on to demand that the freeze be lifted," he said.

Topics:  bad advice editors picks emergency departments general-seniors-news george christensen gp

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