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Medicare Locals a plus for health and economy, says Sprogis

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.

 

 

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  • 1
    Sharilynn Gerchow
    Posted November 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    If the Coalition is anything like the Qld Government, the notion of preventative health care is as foreign as breathing under sand

  • 2
    Helen keleher
    Posted November 22, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Savings from closing the health gap in most disadvantaged working age adults are estimated by NATSEM to be upwards of $8b. Most of the needed care needs to come from the PHC sector and a major role of Medicare Locals is to identify the gaps in services, especially for the most disadvantaged whose health is worst, and work with providers on service redesign.

    “If the health gaps between the most and least disadvantaged groups were closed, i.e. the proportions of people who are in good health or who were free from long-term health conditions, then some  405,000 to 500,000 additional individuals would be free from chronic illness” (NATSEM 2012, The Cost of Inaction).

    The population health role of Medicare Locals has never been attempted in Australia before and was never envisaged in the Divisions of General Practice. The importance of population health work is in gaining a deep understanding of health needs and health gaps in order to close those gaps, reduce the costs of inappropriate emergency department use and hospital admissions and make primary health care services easier to navigate.

    Dismantling Medicare Locals would be cynical and short-sighted and detrimental the momentum that is building for the first-time in Australia, to strengthen all of the primary health care system so it works better for everyone.

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