Bundaberg Health Promotions spokesman Martin Stahan.
Bundaberg Health Promotions spokesman Martin Stahan.

After-hours cost disgusts patients

PATIENT groups have hit out at the Friendly Society Private Hospital after a hike in its after-hours medical fees.

Bundaberg Hospital Patient Support Group president Beryl Crosby was shocked at the recent fee increase.

The new costs at the hospital mean patients will pay $75 for a standard appointment, $85 after 8pm and $250 after 11pm, with a maximum out-of-pocket expense of $126.

This compares to previous fees of $54 (standard), $65 (after 8pm) and $170 (after 11pm), with a maximum $57 out of pocket.

“I find it appalling the amount of money they charge. People don’t choose when to get sick,” Mrs Crosby said.

“It is one of the only after-hours clinics and it is beyond most people’s reach.”

The Friendly Society Private Hospital is part of the Bundaberg Health Promotions consortium which has expressed an interest in running the proposed GP super clinic.

Bundaberg Health Promotions spokesman Martin Strahan said the stranglehold the hospital had on the after-hours service was likely to affect applications for the clinic.

“It is unlikely that any service will want to compete with the Friendlies’ after-hours service,” he said.

The fee rise also may not be good news for Bundaberg Hospital’s emergency department, which is already seeing more patients than the previous year.

Sunshine Coast-Wide Bay Health Service District northern cluster manager Beth Norton said the latest figures showed 9537 people attended emergency between July and September 2009, compared to 9106 during the same period in 2008.

Friendly Society Private Hospital chief executive officer Alan Cooper said the rise could be attributed to the annual Medicare review of prices.

“November is the time of year when Medicare rebates are reviewed and we consider our prices in regard to that,” he said.

Mr Cooper said patient needs had to be balanced with the cost of the service.

“It is not profitable to run an after-hours service. The doctors work odd and anti-social hours and need to be paid accordingly,” he said.

Mr Cooper said the hospital rarely received complaints about the cost of the service.



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