Study shows GP tax will spike hospital waiting times

WAITING times and queue lengths at hospital emergency departments around Australia could spike, adding as much as three hours to average delays, as a result of the proposed GP co-payment.

The Abbott government's $7 per-visit co-payment, modelling on the effects of which have not been released, have been analysed in a multi-university study.

Driven by 13 academics from a raft of research institutions including Flinders University and Monash University, the modelling shows waiting times will go up.

The study found that the introduction of the co-payment at GP surgeries around the country would see more people heading to emergency departments for treatment.

While the specific effects of the co-payment remain unknown, the study suggests average waiting times at hospital EDs will jump from between six minutes and three hours.

"Based on an average ED visit of 5.6 hours, one extra patient per hour would make the visit marginally longer - an average of 5.7 hours, which includes waiting times and treatment, or admission to a bed. An additional four patients per hour, however, would lengthen the queue and result an average visit of 8.5 hours," co-authors wrote on The Conversation website on Friday.

It also further reinforces evidence given by several public health groups to a Senate inquiry on out-of-pocket health costs, which said such rises in waiting times, and extra pressure on hospitals, could result from the new tax.

The study also comes after a recent report from the now-defunct COAG Reform Council found national emergency access targets of 90% of patients being seen in four hours already were not being met.

That report found from October to December 2013, only 66% of patients at major metropolitan hospitals were seen in the four hours, with similar results in regional hospitals.

The co-authors of this latest modelling wrote the data showed that with an extra patient each hour presenting at EDs, average time spent on a bed rose for each patient from 7.6 to 7.7 hours.

But with an extra four patients an hour, that waiting time ballooned to an average of 10.7 hours, putting back all those in the queue.



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