To try and improve consumer access to general practice, the federal government is offering grants for after hours services – one-off, start-up grants of $200,000 or less over two years for infrastructure and staffing support to remain open after hours. Existing general practices, dedicated after hours clinics and deputising services can qualify. Recurrent operating subsidies of up to $200,000 pa are available for recently established “well located” after hours services, including extending an existing service into after hours periods. Supplementary grants up to $50,000 pa over two years are available to practices, co-operatives and deputising services operating a rostered after hours surgery or call-out service. Perth after hours clinics have come and gone and a few survived and prospered, which suggests a limited demand for services that can be met by a small number of well located clinics. Tender applications close on July 18 (see www.health.gov.au\tenders).
Proving once and for all that it is possible to make money in general practice, the BRW Rich 200 lists Primary Health Care founder Edmond Bateman as worth $245m this year (an increase of $50m from last year). BRW sites the main reason for the increase as the increased share price of Primary Health Care, up from a 52 week low of ~$5 to >$8. Primary is not yet active in WA but has expanded from NSW to SA and Vic, and shortly Qld. Also doing well in the health sector is major Ramsay Health Care shareholder, Paul Ramsay whose net wealth increased $180m to $630m, again largely due to an increased share price for Ramsay which recently purchased most Affinity Hospitals (formerly owned by Mayne Group). Not doing so well is Perth biotech company Chemeq, with Graham Melrose dropping off the rich list after Chemeq shares fell 80% during the previous year.
Whilst all the pre budget attention was on possible changes to funding of fertility treatments, changes were made in the budget to the treatment of cosmetic procedures. In a move expected to save $10 million a year, cosmetic procedures such as face lifts and laser eye surgery will be removed from the medical expenses tax offset list. This offset pays a tax rebate of 20% of the medical costs exceeding $1,500 per year. So far this has included cosmetic surgery, orthodontic treatment and IVF treatment as well as laser eye surgery. This move has attracted little publicity and will probably have minimal impact on the practices of doctors in these areas even though it will raise the price in after tax dollars by about 20% for some procedures.