Northern suburbs residents are relying on emergency departments for health care because it's their only choice, according to a research project aimed at improving the outcomes of one of the state's most disadvantaged areas.
For the past six months the Our Community Our Care project has been examining the needs of people living in the northern suburbs and the barriers preventing them from improving their health outcomes.
Based on the concept of anticipatory care, the project is a joint venture between the Northern Suburbs Community Centre, Ravenswood Starting Point Neighbourhood House, with research from the University of Tasmania.
After months of community consultation, NSCC wellbeing project officer Fakington Wilde said one of the biggest concerns raised by residents was around consistency in services.
"Some of the most significant things coming out of this is the amount of non-transparency in experiences, when going to the doctors,"he said.
"Some doctors will bulk bill, other's won't. Some will bulk bill for certain customers, and not for others.
"Because there is no certainty in that space, it can be very difficult to navigate what your options are. As a consequence, people are just not going to GPs."
Mowbray Medical is one of only two health practices servicing the northern suburbs.
In June, it says it was forced into changing its mixed billing services as the result of a "persistent lack of government support", in order to ensure its future financial viability.
It has also been unsuccessful in attempts to recruit additional GPs - one of the main factors contributing to the closure of Invermay's Caledonian Medical Centre in April.
With state and federal funding for 12 months, Mr Wilde said OCOC was seeking to clarify where people could go, and under what circumstances they could access bulk billing.
"The big problem we have in the northern suburbs is we only have two doctor clinics here, and they are pretty much booked up," he said.
"So as a consequence of that, people are having to travel all the way across to the other side of the town in order to get affordable healthcare - hopefully.
"I am not say it's the doctors fault, but I'm saying the people who are doing it the toughest, really need to have their options clearer, so that they can make better informed choices.
"People don't rock up at the ED because it's a choice - they turn up because it's their only choice."
According to the latest Medicare data, remote areas outside of metropolitan cities have seen a reduction in bulk billing for the first time ever, with Tasmania still among the lowest for access to services.
With one of smallest number of doctors for the population it serves, Mowbray Medical practice manager Jo Bean said improving health outcomes would be difficult without more GPs.
"This project [OCOC] is about getting these kinds of communities together, to keep them happy and healthy," she said.
"But people's health - while everybody needs to help themselves with their health - it cannot move forward if you are unwell, but without a practitioner in your life.
"There is a big divide, and that's Australia wide, where there's those who have more money than others.
But to be fair, there isn't one person out there who doesn't deserve good continuation of care."
Bass Liberal MHR Bridget Archer said she was working to address concerns raised by a number of GPs in the area, including a potential sit down with federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.
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