Labor pledges $392 million for Online Consultations with GP

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has pledged $392 million to go toward a new online consultation service where Australians will be able to consult with their GP, even after hours.

The new scheme, announced at Labor’s campaign launch, is aimed at Australians living in rural and regional areas who might have limited access to their GP. Patients in these areas will not need to leave their homes or communities to seek medical advice.

The plan is set to take effect in July 2011 if Labor is elected this August. Labor’s proposed $43 billion national broadband network will allow the super fast internet speeds necessary to provide the video conferencing service, which will be available to regional communities and Australians in outer metropolitan areas.

Ms Gillard cited Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s $1 billion cut from hospitals when he was health minister for the lack of trained GPs available to Australians. She said: "If you are asking yourself the question, 'why can't I get a doctor's appointment today?' look to Mr Abbott's cuts because they're the reason why."

GPs will receive a financial incentive to provide the online service at a cost of $56.8 million and a further $35 million will go toward training GPs with the new online technologies.

While the Prime Minister emphasised that the service should not be a replacement for face-to-face GP consultations, it has not yet been advised what types of consultations will be provided online.

Labor’s bold scheme has received both a positive and negative reaction by doctors. The negative reactions have been directed toward privacy concerns and whether residents would actually use the service to render the scheme viable.