Cutting red tape in healthcare: how you can help

Cutting red tape


Years ago I did a locum in a rural town. As the town’s only doctor went on holiday for a week, I was supposed to look after the hospital and the adjacent GP practice. 

On the first day, just as I was applying a plaster cast to a farmer’s broken hand, a secretary came in to the emergency department and told me I was not allowed to work.

“What do you mean?” I asked surprised.

“Your Medicare provider number hasn’t come through yet,” she said. 

So I spent most of the week reading novels and sight-seeing the lovely area.  

Apparently it was busy in the hospital. The amazing nurses were holding the fort. They had to call the poor doctor on his holiday address to discuss patients and get phone orders.

The provider number came through on the afternoon of the last day.

I know many doctors across the country have had similar experiences. Why doctors have to apply for a new provider number every time they move to a different place, is beyond me.

The flood

We are drowning our health care professionals (and each other) in a flood of often poorly thought out regulations. 

The recent AHPRA advertising guidelines fiasco is one example.

The national authority script hotline is another: every time a patient’s script runs out, a doctor has to ring the government to get approval for a new script – and is usually put on hold. If you want to know how wasteful this system is, watch the video at the end of this post. I made the clip a year ago and the audio is a real-time recording of what happened when I made a call. Nothing has changed since.

What you can do

The Australian Medical Association is now calling for action (see below). Please send the department and the minister an email, even if you’re not a doctor. The government needs to hear the consumer voice. Your help to cut red tape in healthcare is much appreciated.

PBS Authority system (Source: AMA)

To keep the pressure on DHS to properly resource the phone line service, please report delays via email to:

You can make sure the Minister for Health and the Minister for Human Services have a clear picture of the impact on doctors by copying them into your email.



4 thoughts on “Cutting red tape in healthcare: how you can help

  1. GANFYDs. Abolish GANFYDs. Seems everyone wants a service from the doctor, many of which are not Medicare compensable – but noone wants to pay for it.

    Do we REALLY need a doctor to write a note to say that Mr X was off work on Monday…even thugh it is now Thursday and have no way of confirming. And should Medicare foot the bill? Or the patient? Employer NEVER wants to pay…

    Ditto GANFYDs for gym/weight-watchers/mobility scooter etc – this more about risk transfer than use of a medical professionals expertise…


    • Thanks Tim, good point.
      GPs see a lot of people who’s main objective is to get a piece of paper for their employer.
      For those who don’t know: GANFYD = get a note from your doctor.


  2. Pharmacists can write (legal) sick certificates, yet noone knows about it. I really wish some of my patients knew about it. They complain about having to take the time to come to the practice, risk catching some new bug from others in the waiting room, and pay my fee – even if I bulk bill them, which I often do out of sympathy, the cost to Medicare is considerable. Totally daft. Especially when, as Tim points out, we’re often just being “used” since we’re taking the patient’s word for it that they had XYZ symptoms on X day. Other countries allow stat decs. I’m not sure what this costs, but it seems sensible.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I new provider number if the doctor moves? WTF? Sorry, but that is stupid. A provider number should be a unique identifier of the doctor from initial registration. But what would I know – I’m just a patient…..and a taxpayer.


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