Waiting times at South Australian emergency departments will triple if the Abbott Government's $7 GP co-payment is introduced, the SA Health department told a Senate inquiry today.
The Senate Select Committee on Health also heard the South Australian Government was considering a further administration fee of up to $30 dollars to cover the cost of collecting the co-payment in emergency departments.
The Abbott Government is yet to introduce legislation to establish the co-payment, but SA Health modelling shows an anticipated increase of 290,000 presentations at emergency departments should it pass the parliament.
Australian Greens Senator for South Australia Penny Wright said the Greens would oppose the co-payment and more than $50 billion in national funding cuts to hospitals over the next decade.
"The combination of the Abbott Government's health policies would be nothing short of disastrous for South Australia's health system," Senator Wright said.
"Today we heard the Abbott Government health cuts would be the equivalent of 600 hospital beds, or the closure of an entire hospital in SA."
SA Health Deputy Chief Executive Mr Steve Archer told the inquiry waiting times at emergency departments could triple from an average of 20 minutes to 66 minutes.
Submissions from community groups and health experts confirmed funding cuts and the co-payment would disproportionately affect the poor, indigenous and chronically ill.
"The end result is that people will suffer needlessly, some will lose their lives and we will all pay more," Senator Wright added.