Labor Senator Karen Grogan is calling on residents across the Grey electorate to share their experiences accessing GP and other health services via an online survey ahead of a Senate inquiry in Whyalla on March 1, 2022
The Community Affairs References Committee is visiting Whyalla to examine the current state of rural and regional GPs and related services across the region.
The Committee is also looking at the impact Morrison-Joyce Government reforms have had on the health system including changes to the geographical classification system, the Medicare rebate and GP training.
So far around 200 people have completed the survey, with results showing that residents in regional communities across the Grey electorate are increasingly travelling to Adelaide for GP appointments and other basic healthcare due to severe shortages of local services.
Respondents say they are waiting weeks to get a GP appointment and that doctors are unable to accept new patients.
Others say the lack of rapid antigen tests means they can't get a face-to-face appointment with a doctor because they can't meet the testing requirement.
Many of those surveyed say their local doctors are overworked and that communities are suffering as a result.
"I feel for the doctors as they are so overworked. It is unfair on them and us when we are really sick and cannot see anyone," one respondent said.
My wife was told by a mental health nurse, 'if you're not close to committing suicide, then we really can't help you.
Others have told of the severe shortages in mental health services.
"My wife was told by a mental health nurse, 'if you're not close to committing suicide, then we really can't help you," another commented.
And parents have spoken about not being able to access services for sick children.
"I have a two-year-old who is a severe asthmatic and I struggle to get her into the doctors when she is having an asthma attack."
Senator Grogan wants issues impacting regional communities including those in the Upper Spencer Gulf, Port Lincoln and Ceduna regions to be heard at the inquiry.
Recently released government figures show people living in Grey have experienced the highest rise in out-of-pocket expenses associated with visiting a GP in the State.
In the past 12 months, the Morrison-Joyce Government has made more than 900 changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule which the AMA say will lead to increased out of pocket costs for patients.
The recent opening of South Australia's borders, and subsequent rises in COVID-19 infections, are increasing stress on an already stretched SA health system beset by staff shortages, ambulance ramping and dwindling services.
On 1 January this year, the Morrison-Joyce Government also removed a number of Medicare subsidies for Telehealth services including for psychiatry which regional patients say is having a devastating effect on them.
The Committee has previously held hearings in Erina, NSW, and Canberra, and will also head to Launceston in 2022.
Senator Grogan will table the survey responses at the upcoming Senate inquiry.
Anyone wanting to complete the survey should visit Senator Grogan's Facebook page before February 23.