Australian General Practitioners: Younger Australians are much less likely to have a regular doctor

It’s health advice that’s been given more frequently than ever before in the past two years, but how many Australians have a permanent doctor these days?

At least a quarter of the country’s population will regularly attend another practice, with the majority of those people under the age of 45, said Dr Anita Muñoz, chairman of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Victorian.

Dr. Munoz explained that this ratio was staggering, given that people who did not have a permanent doctor were more likely to end up in the hospital and experience long-term health problems.

Conversely, people who saw the same doctor regularly were more likely to “talk about the delicate issues that bother you when you trust the person.”

Health care professionals are deeply concerned about a well-documented trend among young people who see different doctors, and usually only when they have a serious problem.

“Often young people only seek medical care when they are sick and don’t get involved in preventive care as often,” Dr. Muñoz told news.com.au.

“Young people are also mobile, moving for school or work, or visiting their local GP depending on the physical location, which can change.”

She added that over the age of 45, 98 per cent of Australians see GPs regularly because people in that age group are better aware of how important this is.

“The more you stick to one GP, the better off you are in terms of your health outcomes as well as your health experience,” Dr. Munoz said.

“We don’t want to be seen by people who are waiting for them to get sick. All age groups have something that we will do with them annually or every other year to keep them healthy and protect them from disease in the future.”

While long-term health outcomes improved dramatically when people had a regular GP, not all Australians were in the financial position to keep up with regular private practice visits.

In a viral Reddit thread this week, hundreds of Australians said they don’t have a full-time GP because they either move too much, can’t afford one, or don’t understand why.

“It can be difficult to get one if you only visit once a year or less and when you have to go they are booked for a few weeks so you just make an appointment with the next available doctor,” said one respondent.

“I don’t know anyone who has a general practitioner. We all tend to visit clinics with bulk bills and go to the first available doctor,” said another.

“I can’t imagine spending money and time on screening before the age of 30,” said a third.

Bulk billing meetings, while often more accessible, were strictly limited in duration in order for the practice to remain financially viable as a business.

“The way Medicare is set up, by definition, cannot offer the same duration of consultations as the private billing practice, otherwise it will simply cease to exist,” Dr. Munoz said.

A Victorian doctor urged Australians to write to their local MPs to explain why “the system is not working”.

“If a general practitioner billing doctor spent as much time with a patient as a private billing doctor and brought in one-third of the income, their business would close and there would be nothing.”

Originally published as Four words that highlight the main divisions among Australians