News & Events

WRAD Health maintains bulk billing despite the challenges

In a world where fully bulk-billing clinics are becoming a thing of the past, WRAD Health is determined to continue providing free medical care.

As one of only two fully bulk-billing medical clinics in Warrnambool, WRAD Health faces challenges in ensuring the service’s viability but says it’s important that is stays for the community.

The clinic is used by about 2700 people each year for general medical support and now has eight doctors on staff.

While other local medical clinics offer mixed billing, only WRAD Health and Gunditjmara are fully bulk billing. Australia has reportedly lost more than 400 dedicated bulk-billing GP clinics in the past year.

A Guardian Australia analysis of bulk billing only clinics on the Healthdirect service finder GP database between 2023 and 2024 found 455 GP clinics switched from fully bulk billing to a mix of bulk billing and out-of-pocket fees in the year to February.

In addition, 114 bulk-billing clinics were no longer on the register, having either closed or been removed for other reasons. However, 124 clinics switched from mixed billing to fully bulk billing, while 35 new dedicated bulk-billing clinics were added to the register.

WRAD Health’s determination to stick with bulk billing comes despite tough financial challenges.

CEO Mark Powell said the organisation’s mission was to provide accessible services to the local community.

“We’re a not-for-profit organisation and running bulk billing practices are a service to the community first and foremost, ensuring access to healthcare for those vulnerable people unable to pay out of pocket,” he said.

“We want to be as accessible as we can to the community and believe that bulk billing is one way of achieving that. Access to free healthcare given the current financial pressures means people can get medical care in a timely way.

“It can prevent the need for more costly healthcare such as going to hospital.”

Mr Powell said he was aware of cases where people had avoided going to a doctor because they were worried about costs but eventually had to go to hospital to have the problem treated.

Bulk billing clinics increase accessibility to affordable health care, encourage regular health check-ups, support vulnerable people and families, a comprehensive care approach to chronic disease management, and reduce healthcare costs.

“Especially in regional areas like Warrnambool, where income levels may vary and access to healthcare can be limited, bulk billing practices play a crucial role in providing necessary medical care to a larger portion of the population.”

Despite the importance of bulk-billing clinics, more are finding it is no longer financially viable to be bulk-billing-only general practitioners.

WRAD Health says the community can play its part in retaining this local service. “It’s nice for the local community to know there is a bulk billing service here. That’s something for the community to be proud of and support,” Mr Powell said.

He admitted maintaining the clinic was challenging. “We are covered through Medicare for the doctor’s time but there are other aspects of a consult that aren’t funded,” Mr Powell said.

“If the community wants the services of WRAD Health to grow, it needs to show its support. If people value having this free service in the community, they can donate by contacting

Mr Powell said there were still misconceptions about WRAD Health, with some people not realising it is a general medical clinic.

“The change of name from Western Region Alcohol and Drug Centre to WRAD Health was to address that and show we are delivering more general health care,” he said.

“The medical practice runs as a general medical practice and people attend for a vast array of medical reasons including mental health concerns, management of chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and respiratory diseases, skin health checks, sexual and reproductive health, procedures and immunisations.”

Mr Powell also laid to rest any misconception that bulk billing GP services are not as good as clinics that charge gap fees.

“We have well-respected and experienced doctors who have been in the community for many years and we reinvest in their knowledge and development. The service here is as good as any clinic.”

WRAD Health has eight full and part-time doctors and also hosts GP registrars. “The feedback from our doctors is that they love working here. They appreciate what we are trying to achieve for the community and find it a positive environment to work in.”

WRAD Health is also a strong supporter of training and development and regularly hosts registrars and doctors in training.

For Mr Powell, providing affordable care to the community is part of the attraction of WRAD Health.

“Personally, I really enjoy working for an organisation that has these kinds of values and is working to support the community and the feedback from patients is also very positive.

“People appreciate that they can seek the care they need without worrying about financial barriers.”

Additional information: Gunditjmara provides fully bulk billing services and headspace is fully bulk billing for people aged under 25.


Our Vision & Values

WRAD HEALTH’s vision is to advance the health and wellbeing of those in the South Western Region of Victoria affected by Addictive behaviours and to promote optimal enjoyment of life.

WRAD HEALTH seeks to provide comprehensive, holistic support and treatment to individuals and others affected by addictive behaviors and associated issues.

The philosophy of harm minimisation underpins the delivery of all programs offered by WRAD HEALTH. This principle recognises that people in our society use both licit and illicit drugs, and that drugs can be used in ways that are more or less harmful to individuals, families and society. Harm minimisation offers a number of options designed to reduce the harm of drug use to the user and society.


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