Rural emergency rooms to be bombarded after GP exodus

COUNTRY emergency departments could be hit by an new torrent of patients eager to escape the Federal Government's extra charges for seeing a rural GP.

Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Dr Ian Kamerman is in Canberra this week to meet with health ministers and their Opposition counterparts to raise his concerns with the latest budget changes.

Dr Kamerman said in many small towns, the sick will bypass the GP to escape the $7 "co-payment", heading straight into the emergency department where treatment is free.

"The same issue will spill into larger centres as they make the same choice - instead of seeing a GP, they go to emergency."

Dr Kamerman said it threatened the hard work done by state governments to reduce waiting times in emergency rooms.

The government also intends to dump the "Prevocational General Practice Placements Program" - a training program designed to give young medical students a taste of life as a GP.

Dr Kamerman said the PGPPP was a key part of the pipeline bringing doctors into the bush that would disappear.

"I just think this is a terrible budget simply because it makes too many changes too fast."

He said the government's plans to increase medical training places, increasing incentives for teaching doctors and new infrastructure grants were some positives among the downsides.

Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash said in May she expected state governments to foot the bill of the PGPPP.

She said half of all new training places would be allocated to rural areas.

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