‘Racial prejudice’: Doctor denied right to bulk bill
PATIENTS of a popular Tanawha doctor have started a petition claiming racial prejudice after the doctor was denied the ability bulk bill.
The doctor, Shimal Jobanputra, has been living on the Sunshine Coast with his family for four years and opened the doors to Tanawha Health Clinic in October 2019.
Tanawha Health patient Melanie Thomas said it was recently decided by the Department of Health that as Dr Jobanputra had completed his degree abroad, he did not qualify to continue Medicare bulk billing.
"This is clearly discrimination and not only a terrible insult to a great doctor, but the cause of hardship to many of his patients," Ms Thomas said.
"Good healthcare should be available to everyone in our society and this decision will mean that from April 2020, many people will no longer be able to afford to see Dr Shimal.
"How is it that Dr Shimal is allowed to practise in Australia, but is not allowed to bulk bill like any other doctor?"
Ms Thomas said this was nothing less than racial prejudice.
"The Australian Human Rights Commission states: racial discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably, or not given the same opportunities, as others in a similar situation, because of their race, the country where they were born, their ethnic origin or their skin colour," she said.
"The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (RDA) makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his or her race, colour, descent, national origin or ethnic origin, or immigrant status.
"We, the patients will struggle with the denial of bulk billing, it discriminates against the most vulnerable and people with a lower income.
"This may be particularly detrimental to the wellbeing of patients with mental health issues."
Dr Jobanputra said if he was no longer allowed to bulk bill, the most vulnerable would be discriminated against, based on ability to pay.
"Recently, a patient inquired if they could commence their child's antibiotics the following week as they could not afford the medications and were waiting to be paid," he said.
"The consequences may be very serious for those placed in the difficult position of having to choose between eating or healthcare.
"I feel a great sadness for all of those in our society facing extreme hardship.
"We have been tirelessly advocating on their behalf to the Department of Health, with no success.
"The lack of empathy and compassion as a result of these draconian rules is disheartening."
Alyssa Creighton has been a patient of Dr Jobanputra for a few years, and said he went above and beyond during every visit.
"This is beyond unjust and to be honest, it's quite appalling," Ms Creighton said.
"The bare minimum the government could do to support this amazing man and doctor would be to let him provide bulk billing to his patients and people desperately in need.
Husband and wife Barbara Misino and John McCran, who are also patients of Dr Jobanputra, said they understood the rules, but hoped that he could be an exception for his patients' benefit.
"To lose Dr Shim would be terrible for us, as I can imagine it would be for many of his patients that cannot afford to pay private doctor fees," they said.
Another patient Amanda Kent said the country in which Dr Jobanputra was born should not be a reason to punish his patients.
"Please do not make him a doctor we cannot afford to see because the government cannot register him for Medicare."
Dr Jobanputra said the overwhelming support he had received from patients had been very moving.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Dr Jobanputra said his clinic was supporting the community through a new initiative called Tanawha Care, which provided care packages containing essential food and toiletries to those in need, at no cost.
"This also extends to all in the health workforce who may have difficulty with obtaining high-demand essentials," he said.
"The health workforce are doing a wonderful job under very difficult circumstances.
"I would like to thank all hardworking colleagues for their resilience and compassion during these challenging times.
"The service is run by volunteers and is supported through donations from the community and partner organisations. Those who are in need, know somebody who is, can reach out to us through our Facebook group Tanawha Healing Community."
Federal MP Ted O'Brien and Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt are yet to respond to questions in regards to this matter.
For more information on the petition, visit https://www.change.org/p/scott-morrison-medicare-bulk-billing-racial-discrimination