Victoria’s Health Minister Jill Hennessy says she expects Colac Area Health to reimburse patients charged a $60 fee to attend the hospital’s urgent-care centre.
The minister directed the Department of Health and Human Services to stop Colac Area Health charging the fee on Wednesday, following an article in the Colac Herald on Monday.
“These patients should never have been charged a fee for services provided by Colac Area Health and we’ll be putting a stop to it,” a spokesperson for Ms Hennessey said.
“The minister also expects that Colac Area Health will reimburse patients who were erroneously charged.”
General practitioners from Colac’s private practices had previously provided an on-call service at Colac’s urgent care, which allowed them to charge their own fees or offer bulk billing.
Colac Area Health introduced its own $60 fee in February as part of a new urgent-care model, which employs public doctors from University Hospital Geelong.
But the government ordered the hospital to stop charging the new $60 fee this week, saying the fee was inconsistent with national funding agreement rules, which are intended to protect patients and free health-care.
“The minister has instructed the Department of Health and Human Services to work with Colac Area Health on immediately suspending fees for visits to the urgent care centre where their doctors are providing treatment,” Ms Hennessey’s spokesperson said.
The hospital said previously that the fee was necessary to cover the costs of the new model, and Ms Hennessey said the department would work closely with Colac Area Health to ensure the financial viability of urgent care.
Ms Hennessey failed to respond to the Colac Herald’s questions whether Colac’s urgent care was sufficiently funded.
See today’s Colac Herald for more.