State to review urgent-care centre

The State Government will review Victoria’s regional urgent-care centres after a Colac Area Health fee was determined to be inconsistent with national health funding rules, leading to a fee repayment.

The State Government will review Victoria’s regional urgent-care centres after ruling that a Colac Area Health fee was inconsistent with national health funding rules.

The hospital last week cancelled the controversial fee, first reported in the Colac Herald, following intervention by Victoria’s Health Minister Jill Hennessy.

Colac Area Health will now reimburse patients who since February were wrongly charged $60 to be treated by public doctors at the hospital’s urgent-care service.

The National Health Reform Agreement allows external providers such as on-call GPs to charge a fee to treat patients at urgent-care facilities, but does not allow public hospitals to charge for services provided by its own employees.

Colac Area Health started charging a fee after employing its own doctors, replacing a former model that used private GPs.

The incorrect fee caused Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and Minister for Rural Health Bridget McKenzie to request a Victorian Government review of urgent-care centres, amid concerns that patients at other regional health services were also being wrongly charged.

“We welcome your action and approach in Colac,” Mr Hunt wrote in a letter to Ms Hennessy.

“However, we are concerned this practice is widespread across regional Victoria and subsequently concerns have been raised with me about patients facing the same costs in Nhill, Benalla, Casterton and Ararat.”

The ministers have asked Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services to confirm with the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority and National Health Funding Body that federal funding had not been used at urgent-care centres incorrectly charging patients.

A spokesperson for Ms Hennessy said that the department would “investigate whether similar incorrect fees have been charged elsewhere in Victoria and take appropriate action”.

See today’s Colac Herald for more.

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