GPs too expensive for many in ACT
Katy Gallagher says greater competition among GPs could help reduce prices. Photo: Jay Cronan
Canberrans are more likely than other Australians to be deterred by cost from seeing general practitioners.
A report released by the National Health Performance Authority also shows that one in five ACT adults believed they have waited too long to see a GP.
The report compared survey responses from Australians in 2010-11 and broke down the results from within the boundaries of the nation's 61 Medicare Local primary health care organisations.
The ACT Medicare Local said the ACT results reflected the fact Canberra was in the grip of a GP shortage in 2010, but things had improved since then.
The survey found that between 3 per cent and 15 per cent of Australians adults encountered cost barriers to seeing a GP.
Despite being ranked in the ''Metro 1'' group of affluent metropolitan areas, the ACT Medicare Local region had the highest rate of patients complaining of cost barriers.
Health Performance Authority chief executive Diane Watson said cost was a problem for only 5 per cent to 8 per cent of people in other Metro 1 areas.
''You're almost twice as high as a percentage of the population [facing cost barriers] as those other metro areas that are high-density, high socio-economic status and three times as high as inner-west Sydney,'' Dr Watson said.
The report found that 89 per cent of ACT adults rated themselves as in ''excellent, very good or good health'' - a similar result to other Metro 1 areas.
Dr Watson said breaking down health performance data by small regions could help authorities drive change at the local level. ACT Medicare Local chairwoman Rashmi Sharma said the results reflected in part the ''frantic'' situation GPs had endured during a workforce shortage last year.
''They were difficult days in 2010 and we still managed to do a pretty good job,'' Dr Sharma said.
Medicare Local was working to identify pockets of disadvantage in the ACT where people might have difficulty in obtaining GP services, she said.
''Our role is to actually maybe find out where are those pockets of disadvantage, where do we actually need to be focusing to make health care more accessible for those people. And we're doing that work now.
''We're working with refugee health, we're working with indigenous health, we're looking into the homeless population arena,'' Dr Sharma said.
Chief Minister and Health Minister Katy Gallagher agreed that the GP shortage had eased since 2010.
Ms Gallagher said greater competition among GPs could help reduce prices.
She said government support for organisations such as the West Belconnen Health Co-op, which bulk-billed, aimed to ensure people in need could access free or affordable services.
''We're supporting them with funding for their model to Tuggeranong,'' Ms Gallagher said.
''Part of the issue is extending those kinds of models to areas of need and providing people with choice.''