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    Michael Janssen

    The supposed superiority of healthcare in Victoria was warmly debated until Brumby signed up to health reform, but consumer particpation is one area where Victoria stands out. The current conversations around Medicare Locals and consumers seems to be looking for a wheel to reinvent.

    In Victoria legislated and resourced formal consumer engagement in the governance of health services has been established for a decade. In addition, Victoria now has nationally accredited qualifications for both consumers and health professionals actively involved in formal participation of consumers in health services. This all occurs through the facilitation of Victoria’s health consumer organisation and funding from the VIC Department of Health.

    Divisions in Medicare Local clothing sniffing around for lone consumers to help them tick the community involvement box is not going to achieve effective and sustainable consumer engagement in the reform process. Why is it that “National Health Reform” has not addressed the issue of consumer engagement at a National and State level? An audit of existing practice, resources and capacity in each State is needed followed by a summit of consumer organisations. The problem with health consumers is that it is easy to pretend that no-one speaks for them – that if I have a lone conusmer on my committee I’ve got consumer engagement. Consumers must control the means of consumer engagement and they must be integrated through their peak bodies with the growing workforce of health consumer leaders.

    Michael Janssen is CEO of the Health Issues Centre, Victoria’s health consumer organisation.

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