Doctors to Start Charging Patients a 'Late Fee'

Australian doctors have begun charging patients a fee of up to $43 for being just 10 minutes late for appointments, the Herald Sun reported Wednesday.

Consumer groups are accusing the profession of a double standard, given that doctors often keep patients kicking their heels in surgery waiting rooms.

But general practitioners say the fees are necessary to ensure practices run efficiently.

In Melbourne, the Collins St. Medical Centre imposes a $20 charge on patients who are 10 minutes late for a standard 15-minute consultation; for longer consultations, the late fee is $40.

At nearby Collins Place Medical Centre, patients more than 20 minutes late for a 15-minute consultation can incur a $35 penalty and lose the appointment.

Another medical center in the central business district charges patients a $50 late fee.

Brad Schmitt, of consumer group Choice, said there was a double standard at work.

"If patients are charged a late fee, do they get a discount if their GP is running late?" he said.