Australians have made great use of free medical services during the COVID-19 pandemic, pushing bulk billing to a record high.
Almost nine out of 10 visits to the doctor nationwide were provided at no cost to the patient.
Temporary changes to Medicare during the pandemic, such as GP telehealth services to prevent the spend of the virus, were a factor behind the surge in bulk billing.
In the 12 months to September, the bulk billing rate for GP services was 88.7 per cent, 2.6 percentage points higher than a year earlier.
Total benefits for Medicare services reached $25.3 billion.
“Today’s figures show the Morrison government’s rapid response to the pandemic allowed Australians to access the health care they needed, despite the challenges of COVID-19,” federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement on Sunday.
By the end of September, Medicare had paid benefits for 2.5 million COVID-19 video consultations and 30.4 million COVID-19 phone consultations provided by GPs, specialists and allied health professionals.
Meanwhile, Victoria has reached 44 days without local COVID-19 transmission.
But it did record one new case in its revamped hotel quarantine system, the sixth reported since the Victorian government restarted the program last week.
The case reported on Sunday was that of a boy aged under five. His parents were on Saturday among the five people confirmed to have COVID-19.
“These positive results are to be expected and our quarantine system has been designed on the premise that we would have return travellers test positive,” Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said.
“While we’d all prefer there were no active cases, changes made to strengthen the system will ensure that we manage this in a way that keeps returning travellers, the workers caring for them and the Victorian community as safe as possible.”
NSW recorded a ninth straight day without a local COVID-19 case, while removing the final restrictions for South Australians entering the state.
However, like Victoria, the state day found three cases in returned travellers in hotel quarantine.
NSW Health said orders barring entry to those connected to South Australia’s Parafield cluster were lifted.
The state is now open to all people in Australia and New Zealand.
However, authorities say they remain concerned with falling COVID-19 test numbers.