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Primary hits out at cuts

7 Feb 2013 | The Age
MEDICAL centre owner Primary Health Care has criticised the government for reducing funding to doctors, saying the cuts are flowing through to its bottom line.

It comes despite the company posting a 50 per cent increase in first-half profit.

Primary - which provides services to doctors, specialists and healthcare providers who operate their own businesses within the company's centres - said a decrease in Medicare subsidies was causing the company "headwinds".

Speaking after the release of the company's first-half results, chief executive Edmund Bateman said a review by the Productivity Commission last month revealed significant reductions in incentive payments to doctors and health practitioners.

"The issue in general practice is a decrease in funding of general practice by the government," he said.

Primary shares closed flat on Wednesday at $4.49.

Its first-half net profit after tax was $69.5 million, while revenue rose 5 per cent to $720.7 million.

The company declared an interim dividend of 6.5ยข a share, up 30 per cent from the same period last year.

Primary charges doctors a service fee based on a percentage of what they bring into the practice. All the company's practices bulk bill.

"If there's 15 per cent reduction in funding to doctors, our share of income is equally reduced," Dr Bateman said. "So we've got to combat that . . . by being more efficient."

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