Shadow health spokesman Peter Dutton needs to undertstand that Medicare Locals offer a healthy boost to productivity rather than being “another layer of bureaucracy”, says ML leader Arn Sprogis.
Responding to yesterday’s Croakey report of Mr Dutton’s plan to hack into an estimated 3,000 jobs in the 61 Medicare Locals, Dr Sprogis, warned such a move would have a backlash, particularly in rural areas.
Axing Medicare Local staff would trigger “a huge impact” country communities, where many staff have active roles in health care, such as psychologists, support staff and care coordinators, says Dr Sprogis, who chairs the Australian Medicare Local Alliance.
He has acknowledged that the Medicare Locals are “vulnerable” to Coalition abolition. “But they should not be.”
Croakey has also reported the comments of a NSW Local Health District board member, who asked to remain anonymous, that Medicare Locals were “vulnerable” to closure by a future government because they did not have a big impact on local services.
Dr Sprogis said Mr Dutton needed to understand that Medicare Locals could make a substantial improvement to productivity in the health sphere.
Health has been subjected to very little in the way of serious productivity attention.
As Australia’s most ambitious attempt yet to establish an integrated primary health care, system Medicare Locals should not be seen as another layer of bureaucracy.
Primary health care schemes had been shown by research in several countries, to reduce dependence on expensive hospital treatment, particularly for chronic conditions like diabetes and mental illness.
“The Opposition has not yet come to grips with this…it is a major productivity gain.”
Dr Sprogis said there were already several Medicare Locals, in the Hunter, Brisbane and Western Sydney, which were seeking active links with public hospitals to explore ways of shifting care, where medically appropriate, from hospitals to services organised by Medicare Locals .
The highest priority of the Medicare Local Alliance was to gather the evidence showing how better coordinated services in the community reduced demand for hospital beds.
In his comments to Croakey, Mr Dutton, has said the Coalition supported co-ordinated primary care“but we don’t support the way Labor has implemented Medicare Locals. The Coalition will detail its plan for primary care in the run up to the next election”.
Declaration: Mark Metherell has been commissioned by the Australian Medicare Local Alliance to write a publication about the work of Medicare Locals.