The Liberal government hates Medicare. That's why there's a GP crisis in Shortland right now. Shortland is the sixth oldest electorate in the country. We have a higher than average Indigenous population, and household income is below the state and national average. My constituents rely on bulk billing and Medicare.
The changes introduced by the government in 2020 now classify Shortland as 'metropolitan' for bulk billing incentives for GPs. This classification is absurd. Shortland is a regional electorate. To classify the region I represent as the same as Wentworth and North Sydney is a disgrace. On top of this, Lake Macquarie is not considered a distribution priority area anymore, meaning that overseas trained and bonded medical program doctors can no longer practise in the region. These decisions by the Morrison-Joyce government mean that we now have a chronic GP shortage, and that practices are just not able to provide bulk-billing to the extent they used to. One certain practice advised me that they went from bulk-billing 80 per cent of their patients to just 20 per cent.
On top of this, the Liberals have also gutted funding to the Hunter's much-cherished GP access after-hours service. Belmont Hospital has cut its hours of operation for this service on weekends and public holidays in half. The Liberals' pathological hatred of Medicare is hurting the people of Shortland and preventing them from accessing the health care that they need and deserve.