A Victorian medical centre has been slammed on social media overnight, accused of sex discrimination for charging patients more to see a female General Practitioner than a male General Practitioner.
But the controversial pricing policy has been defended today by a female GP, who says that women doctors don’t earn as much as their male counterparts.
According to a report in The Age, the outrage began when visitors to the Myhealth North Eltham clinic saw a sign which detailed different fees for female and male doctors.
The sign stated that a standard consultation with a female doctor costs $82, compared with $75 to see a male doctor.
The Age reports that when a patient asked a young receptionist about the extra charge, she was told it was because “women’s issues take longer”.
The medical centre has been accused of discrimination, because it’s believed that more women choose to see women doctors, and are therefore disadvantaged.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has referred the matter to Victoria’s Health Complaints Commissioner for investigation.
“This minister is deeply concerned,” a spokesperson said.
“Not only is this practice offensive, it is potentially discriminatory.”
Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennesey was also concerned.
“Nobody should have to fork out more to see a doctor simply because they are a woman,” she said.
The Twittersphere erupted with outrage about the extra charge, with some calling it “gender discrimination”.
“It’s basically a gender tax & it’s discrimination,” Twitter user Amanda wrote.
But in an opinion piece for The Guardian, an unnamed female GP defended the additional charge, arguing women doctors earn less than male doctors, and do more work.
“In Australia, on average, female GPs earn $11 less per hour than our male counterparts. That is the equivalent of around $21,000 per year, and it is adjusted for the number of hours worked, before you say ‘but women only work part time’. Evidence shows that female GPs see patients for longer each visit, and for more complex issues. We are more likely to perform preventative care like screening testing each visit, and our care is independently proven to be more cost effective.”
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at Discrimination Claims, said the law is clear when it comes to discrimination.
“Someone cannot be treated less favourably because of an attribute like their sex, or gender,” he said.
“But in this case, it could be argued that the extra charge applies to all patients, both male and female, so I can’t see where the discrimination is.
“Both male and female patients have a choice about whether they want to pay the extra $7 to see a female doctor – or not – or whether they use that medical clinic at all, for that matter.
“There are plenty of clinics that bulk bill their patients, no matter if you’re seeing a boy doctor or a girl doctor.”
If you believe that you have been subject to discrimination based on your sex, gender, or sexuality, you may be entitled to compensation. Please call our friendly staff at Discrimination Claims on 1300 853 837 for expert and confidential advice.
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