Barnett flags emergency visit fees
May Day parade through the streets of Fremantle. Picture: Mogens Johansen/The West Australian

Colin Barnett has warned patients may have to pay a fee for emergency departments if the Federal Government goes ahead as expected and introduces a Medicare co-payment for visits to the doctor.

As an opinion poll showed voters fiercely opposed to a co-payment to see a GP, Mr Barnett said the idea had "some merit" to deter patients from unnecessary doctors' appointments.

He confirmed the State Government would consider a fee for emergency wards if GP co-payments resulted in patients flocking to public hospitals for treatment.

"Emergency departments are for genuine emergencies," he told _The West Australian _. "They are being used by a significant part of the population as basically a GP service. If there is a co-payment of GPs, we would have to look at that if there is a deflection of patronage if you like into emergency departments."

Australian Medical Association WA president Richard Choong warned co-payments were bad for patients and added to pressure on public hospitals.

"They will either delay seeking medical attention or avoid taking their medications because they will also cost more or both," he said.

Dr Choong said the recommendations threatened the fabric of universal health care.

The latest Seven News/ReachTel poll found 57 per cent of voters did not support a co-payment, while 59 per cent said it would mean Tony Abbott had broken his promise to ease cost of living pressures.

The poll also found 60 per cent of voters thought the Prime Minister had broken his pledge for no new taxes if workers earning more than $80,000 a year were hit with a deficit levy.

Mr Abbott said it was a "fair question" for voters to ask why big Budget cuts were needed. "My answer is that you can't fix the economy without fixing the Budget," he said.

Trade unionists at yesterday's May Day rally in Fremantle demanded the PM rule out the Commission of Audit's call to cut the minimum wage and force long-term unemployed young people to move for work.

The West Australian

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