DOCTOR DOCTOR: Don't have a health care card? You can still be bulk billed, as Cannonvale Medical Centre brings back full bulk-billing services.
DOCTOR DOCTOR: Don't have a health care card? You can still be bulk billed, as Cannonvale Medical Centre brings back full bulk-billing services. Contributed

BULK-BILLING'S BACK: See a GP without being out of pocket

FULL bulk-billing services are available again in the Whitsundays.

Since March 2018, people have been stung up to $80 for a visit to the GP, as practices opted to ditch bulk-billing.

On March 26 last year, the 121 Medical Centre was the last practice in the region to cease bulk-billing. At the time, they said they were forced to adopt a private billing structure, due to the government's freeze on the GP Medicare rebate, and the large expenses associated with running a medical practice.

However the freeze on the rebate ended as of July 1 last year.

For low income earners or pensioners who cannot afford the initial out-of-pocket expense, a trip to the emergency department at Proserpine Hospital has been the only option.

But reprieve is in sight for those unable to fit the bill upfront, as bulk-billing is available once again at Cannonvale Medical Centre.

All Medicare cardholders will be bulk-billed, whether they are a new or existing patient, and owner Marama Montgomery said she hoped to relieve some of the pressure from Proserpine Hospital.

Mackay Hospital and Health Services chief executive Jo Whitehead said in July 2019 a total of 1233 people attended Proserpine Hospital's Emergency Department - a 10 per cent increase from the same month in 2018.

Ms Whitehead said Proserpine Hospital had experienced a significant growth in demand for care, particularly for category 1 and 2 patients.

There was also a significant increase in category 4 and 5 patients - those who were classed as "least unwell".

After buying the Cannonvale Medical Centre in March this year, Ms Montgomery said she was slowly making "appropriate changes" to enable her team to service the community.

"Our goal is to be instrumental in providing quality health care for the entire local community, not just those that can afford it," she said.

Ms Montgomery, who owns several clinics across Queensland, believes the bulk-billing business model is viable.

"Airlie Beach, like much of rural Australia has a shortage of doctors," she said.

Along with rolling out bulk-billing services, the clinic will also be welcoming new doctors and nurse practitioners in the coming months.

"A nurse practitioner can prescribe and refer as well as consult - and it is my understanding this is also a first for the area," she said.

Member for Dawson George Christensen congratulated Cannonvale Medical Centre for restarting their bulk-billing service, which he said would ease the financial burdens of GP services for the community.

"I take my hat off to Cannonvale Medical Centre for re-starting their bulk-billing services," Mr Christensen said.

"Access to medical services is essential and it would be a travesty for people to be avoiding going to the doctor because of their bank balance.

"It's great that Cannonvale Medical Centre has recognised a gap in the market to make this service available within the local community again. I urge other medical practices to follow suit."