MOST things involving our health system are complicated, and more so when they touch on people’s hip pocket nerve.
The report in today’s Argus is a perfect example. Branxton is about to lose one of its three doctors.
Professional burnout and a desire to reduce working hours to spend more time with family are behind the doctor’s decision to move, and that’s extremely legitimate.
But the issue of a Medicare doctor provider number for a replacement is much less clear.
On what The Argus has been told, numbers are available on one side of a bureaucratic line that divides East Branxton from the main part of Branxton, where numbers are not available. Why?
There would be a good bureaucratic reason no doubt. Probably many.
It appears, though, that without this number the amount of income a replacement doctor would earn working in Branxton would be considerably lower than if he or she were based in East Branxton.
And the reality is, there is a surgery in Branxton seeking a replacement and there’s no surgery in East Branxton.
Even if there were other things attracting a doctor to move to Branxton, who would take a substantial pay cut to do it?
Supposedly a replacement doctor could work in Branxton without a number, charge a doctor’s going rate and pass an extra Medicare rebate “gap” cost on to patients.
He could then find it harder to attract patients, or patients may be forced to go to him because of their health needs and have to put up with the higher bill.
Either way there’s an impasse.
While hopes are held that it could be sorted out by Friday, people close to the action indicate that it won’t be.
And that means the Branxton community will be one doctor short.
That doesn’t seem a fair outcome.
Perhaps there is room for some sort of compromise where a Medicare incentive is paid to attract a replacement in the short term until a long-term solution is found.