Health workers are holding meetings and rallies around Australia on Wednesday to protest at what they call a deliberate downgrading of Medicare by the Federal Government.
Sydney hospital staff plan to march to the electorate office of Health Minister Tony Abbott and present petitions with thousands of signatures.
Labor’s health spokeswoman, Julia Gillard, is expected to address the rally outside Mr Abbott’ss office in the northern suburb of Manley.
The Union’s National Secretary, Craig Thompson, says the national day of action has been organised because staff are angry the government has allowed the number of doctors who bulk bill to fall.
He says this is forcing thousands of people who can not afford to pay to see a doctor at their local practice into public hospitals.
“There are simply too many patients coming in with not enough staff to see them. And a lot of those patients are coming in with quite simple things that should be seen by GPs who bulk bill.
“The reason they are coming to public hospitals is not the fault of the patient is because they can’t find a doctor who will bulk bill and they know if they go to a hospital emergency department they won’t be charged.
“That is putting an intolerable strain on public health workers and an intolerable strain on the public health service.”
The union says protests will also be held in Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania.
It is to ask health workers to vote on Wednesday on a proposal to increase the Medicare levy by 1% and devote the money entirely to health.
The union also wants the Federal Government to increase public hospital funding by at least $1bn a year.