NOT FAIR: Smoker Joanne Dennis objects to paying a higher consultation fee than non-smokers to see a doctor. Joanne Dennis is outraged the Lochinvar doctor surgery gives non-smokers a discount to reward them for good behaviour.

Ms Dennis, of Rutherford, is a smoker who believes the surgery’s practices are a form of discrimination.

When she phoned the surgery last week to ask about a consultation, she was asked whether she was a smoker or a non-smoker.

“They told me I had to pay $66 [for a general consultation] if I was a smoker but if I was a non-smoker I would only pay $56,” she said.

“They told me they rewarded people for being a non-smoker, but it’s my personal choice to smoke. We’re not children, we’re adults and we should be able to make our own decisions.”

John and Felicity Goswell operate the practice. Mr Goswell is the GP and Mrs Goswell is the practice manager.

Mrs Goswell confirmed that non-smokers received a discount and said the standard $66 consultation fee was set by the Australian Medical Association.

She said the surgery footed the bill for the $10 difference and the discount was used by hundreds of doctors across Australia.

“The discount is an incentive to help encourage smokers to quit and reward them for good behaviour,” Mrs Goswell said.

She said they had started the practice of discounting for non-smokers at another surgery in 2003.

“We’ve had very high success rates of quitting and found lots of people want to quit,” she said.

Ms Dennis said she would not use the doctor’s surgery and many other smokers she knew felt the same way.

“We were so excited when we found out there was a doctor there [in Lochinvar] and we were keen to use that service, but this is just a big slap in the face,” she said. “It makes me wonder whether the doctor would be judgmental of my weight like they are about the fact I smoke.

“What if someone innocently contracted HIV through a blood transfusion – would they be judgmental of that People need doctors they can trust who won’t judge them.”

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