Shepherd Backs Medical Students – 8 July 1999

Dr Bruce Shepherd has called on the Federal Government to take notice of the protest by 150 Medical Students in Perth yesterday against Dr Michael Wooldridge’s Medicare Provider Number legislation.

The protest was held at the Weld Club in Barrack Street, Perth, where Dr Wooldridge was to attend a function. According to reports, Dr Wooldridge failed to appear and apparently cancelled his attendance in order to avoid confronting the students.

Dr Shepherd said “It is tragic that the cream of our youth can be so unhappy so early in their careers.”

Under legislation introduced by Dr Wooldridge, young doctors cannot get a provider number – which allows their patients to claim Medicare rebates – unless they are on an approved training scheme. This effectively raises a barrier to many young doctors to enter General Practice, with the Government using the weapon of issuing provider numbers as a form of defacto ownership of doctors and their future.

“Dr Wooldridge has always claimed the scheme was about quality, about ensuring that untrained doctors are not let loose on the public. However, Dr Wooldridge, when he was a medical student representative and a member of the opposition, is on the record as denouncing any moves which restricted young doctors from entering GeneralPractice.” (ref: Hansard 25 May 1989)

“The Provider Number legislation was only about rationing healthcare and it has led to the demoralisation of some of our brightest young people.”

“We want to encourage young people into rural medicine, not force them against their will to do something they do not feel comfortable with or not confident in doing.”

“Dr Wooldridge has alienated a generation of young doctors against the Coalition and has created a breeding ground of discontent amongst some of the brightest young people in Australia,” said Dr Shepherd

Dr Shepherd called on the Federal Government to reconsider the Provider Number legislation, and listen to the concerns of the students who should be some of the Government’s strongest supporters instead of its bitterest enemies.