GP Access Forced to Cut Services

A major after hours medical clinic based in the Hunter has been forced to cut back its services.

Fixed funding from the Commonwealth has failed to keep up with an increase in operational costs, forcing Hunter Primary Care to slash its popular GP Access service.

The GP Access clinic at the Calvary Mater will close its doors on December 24.

From January 1st, clinics at the Maitland and John Hunter Hospital will close an hour earlier at 10pm and weekend services at Belmont Hospital and Westlakes Community Health Centre at Toronto will be halved.

Hunter Primary Care CEO Brenda Ryan told NewFM, it wasn’t a decision that was made lightly.

“There was a lot of consideration in how we could maintain services throughout the Hunter in the best way we could,” Ms Ryan said.

“I know that the unique services that we provide are an excellent service and our staff work tirelessly to help the community.”

GP Access takes approximately 70,000 calls per year, with around 50,000 of those presenting to the clinics for treatment.

Ms Ryan said the aim of GP Access is to reduce the amount of people seen in Emergency Departments

The reduction in services is expected to affect around 14,000 people, increasing pressure on an already strained health system in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms Ryan said fixed funding, a freeze in Medicare benefits and a decrease in demand during the pandemic all played a role in the decision to cut back services.

“We’re always hopeful that our funding will increase so that we can provide more services to the Hunter community.”

Federal member for Newcastle, Sharon Claydon on Thursday launched a petition calling on the Morrison Government to provide the necessary funding to keep GP Access operating at full capacity.