Tasmanians are missing out on up to $100 million a year in Commonwealth health funding due to barriers in accessing a GP.
Tasmanian Council of Social Service chief executive Kym Goodes said in its budget priorities statement to the government the organisation had very conservatively estimated Tasmanians were missing out on $38.5 million per year in Commonwealth-funded care plans.
"If we think more broadly than just a chronic disease focus we might see up to $100 million dollars that the Commonwealth has allocated to eligible Tasmanians that is not being accessed because they cannot access the most basic primary health care," Ms Goodes said.
"The money is there but it's not flowing into Tasmania because there are too many barriers in the way.
"Tasmanians are telling us their health needs are at crisis points. People are ignoring very serious chronic conditions purely because they cannot access what they need."
In its submission, TasCOSS called on the government to make it a priority to address the lack of universal health care in communities across Tasmania.
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Ms Goodes said there were two ways the state could tackle the issue.
"[They] could underwrite that money for a period of time to be able to get the care on the ground that's needed," she said.
"The second option is to look at cashing-out the money that we're eligible for and not accessing for a period of time so we can get GPs and allied health teams into communities.
"If the state government doesn't see this as an opportune moment to act we will see our hospital system continue to be placed under a burden of demand it just cannot meet.
"We will continue to see the Tasmanian state budget dedicate more and more dollars to our hospital system but we won't see improved health outcomes for Tasmanians."
Ms Goodes said the government should reset its approach to health funding to focus less on hospitals and instead direct attention to primary health to reduce the number of people presenting in emergency departments.
"At the moment 32 per cent of the Tasmanian state budget is dedicated to health, predominately to our hospital system. We see more and more people trying to access that system and people getting sicker and not better," Ms Goodes said.
"If any business was spending 32 per cent of its budget and, in fact, getting worse outcomes then a business would review that expenditure."
Ms Goodes said if the state acted now it would take three to five years to see a large reduction in the number of people presenting to hospitals.
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Tasmania spokeswoman and Launceston-based GP Dr Ginita Oberoi said she fully supported reorientating the Tasmanian health system toward supporting GPs and primary healthcare to keep people well and out of hospital.
"One of the main barriers preventing Tasmanians from accessing their local GP is cost," Dr Oberoi said.
"Patient out of pocket costs are increasing year on year because of decisions such as the Medicare rebate freeze. Unless government funding keeps pace with the cost of providing high-quality care the pressures on general practice will continue to grow and this will be passed on to Tasmanian patients.
"No one wins in this scenario. If patients delay or avoid seeking care they may well end up in a hospital bed with a more severe condition [which] compromises their care and places a huge burden on the entire Tasmanian health system."
A government spokesperson said the Department of Health would examine the details of TasCOSS' submission for consideration as part of the 2020-21 budget development process.
"We welcome contributions from all stakeholders on ways to take pressure off our emergency departments in the face of growing demand, and provide more care in the community," the spokesperson said.
"As the TasCOSS submission notes, the Community Rapid Responses service established by the Hodgman majority Liberal government does this, providing thousands of appointments in patients' homes."