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Byron Shire
July 14, 2024

Fears Murwillumbah will lose health services

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Reclassifying Murwillumbah from a regional to a metropolitan categorisation has been criticised by both local councillors and federal MP Justine Elliot.

Tweed Shire Labor councillor Reece Byrnes is calling for a reversal of the decision by federal minister for health Greg Hunt at the Tweed Shire Council meeting on 20 February.

‘Under the current Modified Monash Model (MMM) Murwillumbah has been reclassified to a metropolitan area (MMM1). This crazy decision could potentially see a decline of bulk billing rates and incentives for young doctors to come to the town to practice,’ said Councillor Byrnes.

Mayor Katie Milne and Deputy Mayor Chris Cherry have also come out in support of the reversal of the decision.

I support Cr Byrnes call on this very important issue,’ Mayor Milne told Echonetdaily.  

The implications for provision of affordable and accessible health care for this region could be significant. Murwillumbah is a lower socio-economic demographic with many people already struggling to meet day to day needs. People simply wont go to the doctor if they cant afford it, and their health will suffer.

Murwillumbah could hardly be considered a metro area.  Metro areas are built up areas well serviced by all manner of things including public transport which is certainly not the case here.

Federal MP Justine Elliot has also written to the Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, regarding the reclassification.

The Liberal-National government has changed the classification of Murwillumbah from regional to metropolitan,’ said Ms Elliot.

‘This will be detrimental to the delivery of health and medical services in our region. Given the significant negative health and economic outcomes for the local community, I’ve written to the Health Minister, Greg Hunt to urgently change this classification.’

According to Cr Byrnes under the metropolitan classification Murwillumbah potentially faces a decline in a range of health programs including rural bulk billing Incentives, workforce incentive programs and the Bonded Medical Program.

‘The classification to MMM1 also means medical practices in Murwillumbah will only be available to General Pathway registrars and no longer to Rural Pathway registrars,’ said Cr Byrnes.

‘This decision is not only just crazy, it’s dangerous and will have disastrous effects on local health outcomes for residents’

‘Everyone that has ever been born in, lived in, visited, or passed through Murwillumbah knows it is not a city like Sydney and Brisbane, it’s a country town.’

‘I’m calling on my colleagues to support the community and residents in Murwillumbah and ask the Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt to make a common sense decision to reverse the classification.’

♦ The Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt was contacted for a response

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  1. I am shocked by such inflammatory statements by Justine Elliot MP. She knows full well that bulk billing is an arrangement between doctors and Medicare. Ms Elliot is implying that living in a metropolitan area you are unable to utilise bulk billing doctors, this of course is a fallacy.
    Something that seems to be forgotten that Tweed Shire has in the recent past reached City status, therefore Murwillumbah is a suburb of the greater metropolitan area of Tweed Shire Council.
    If a doctor is currently bulk billing I for one see no reason why this would alter.
    Is Ms Elliot deliberately trying to cause undue concern and worry for the residents of Murwillumbah?

  2. Can’t believe I’m actually reading what I think is FAKE COMMENT
    “the greater metropolitan area of tweed Council” what a load of bunkum! “Tweed Shire….reached city status” More bunkum. Tweed Shire is neither a town or a city.
    Murwillumbah is a TOWN in the Tweed Shire, a Local Government Area of NSW
    Marianne, what exactly is nothing inflammatory in the above article?
    Whats wrong with wanting and fighting for affordable and accessible health care for this region?

  3. Marianne, you say that “if a doctor is currently bulk billing, that you see no reason why this should alter”. The reason is given in the article ie. the rural bulk billing incentives not being available.

  4. What bulk billing!? I have to pay thw FULL amount of about 120$ when I go to thw docs in M bah the they process a refund but nit the full amount! When I askes why is it so much and mot bulk billing in the
    Town i get told that they have to charge more cause they have trouble keeping doctors otherwise.
    There is no bulk bulling in mbah!
    The town is growing in population yet dying at the same time. The local shops charge more when you can get it cheap 20 mins away at tweed.
    And fuel! 155 at the local bp and other while 132 at airport! A fort and they wonder why thw town os slowly dying!?

  5. Confused about whether or not Murwillumbah is in a metropolitan area? Take a drive to M’bah, and around M’bah. Aside from the evidence of your eyes, consider that metropolitan areas do not ‘slowly die’, nor do they have trouble keeping doctors, or with employment opportunities, or access to public transport, or affordable housing. They also don’t have a yearly ‘Banana Festival’ or high percentage of National Party voters. Maybe classifying M’bah as metropolitan means that all that farmland between Tweed, the coast and M’bah can be opened up for more of the kind of urban housing- and industrial-rape-and-pillage that we’ve seen on the Gold Coast and in some areas of the Tweed?

  6. Intelligent and sensible comment from A. Campbell!

    Local shops charge more, and gradually due anyway, because people run up to Tweed instead. As a pensioner, I like to shop local to support the retailers here — and also because the shopkeepers here know me and let me pay things off if necessary.
    My doctor bulk bills, but perhaps that’s only for pensioners. There is always the option of going to the hospital as an outpatient. (A good reason to keep our beloved little hospital!)

  7. This is either an error in Administration or an error in judgement. Murwillumbah is a country town that might be in the Government’s sights for huge developments.

    I’ve checked the ‘List of Cities in Australia’ (scroll down to NSW) – Murwillumbah is NOT on that list!

    According to the 2016 Census, Murwillumbah had a population of about 9,200 – nowhere near the 25,000* residents needed to be granted ‘city’ status (*benchmark from the previous Local Government Act). Interesting that the current Act does not specify any criteria for a ‘city’… (see the above Wikipedia page)

    I would keep a very close eye on things happening in Canberra, take note of where money is being spent and a close eye on your Nationals candidate.


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