Female GPs say 'inadequate' Medicare rebates, pressure to bulk bill patients adds to emotional burn out

Female GPs say ‘inadequate’ Medicare rebates, pressure to bulk bill patients adds to emotional burn out

For two years, Sarah McLay has dipped into her personal savings, sacrificed a take-home wage and run her central Queensland medical practice at a loss of “several hundred thousand dollars”.

Regardless of the hours Dr McLay worked or the patients she saw, the numbers did not stack up.

“We were really subsidizing the public’s health care,” Dr McLay said.

“Nothing is ever truly free. Everything costs someone something.”

Most patients probably don’t think about the finances of a medical clinic — and that’s provided you can get into the waiting room in the first place.

Yet financial strain is part of a hidden toll that Dr McLay and other general practitioners say is disproportionately affecting women and adding to skills shortages as burnt-out doctors leave the profession.

A financial and emotional gender disparity has emerged because female GPs tended to see more patients needing longer consultations.

Dr McLay says Clermont will have no permanent doctor if she was forced to close her clinic.(Supplied)

“Yes, I did medicine because I wanted to help people, but I can’t change the reality that our Medicare rebate is actually completely inadequate to pay our bills,” Dr McLay said.

“I can’t keep sacrificing and suffering because the government doesn’t value what we do.”

Short appointments more lucrative

General practitioners across the board have reported struggling to provide care with Medicare rebates that have not increased with inflation.

Louise Stone, a Canberra GP and medical educator said short consultations received a higher rebate per minute than longer appointments.

Dr Stone said she would “earn four times as much” doing back-to-back vaccination appointments than a 40-minute consult for someone with mental health or chronic physical conditions.