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Medicare Locals

Jan 4, 2013

North Adelaide Medicare Local crisis?

Croakey has received information that the Board of North Adelaide Medicare Local has been rolled and all staff locked out of office over the Christmas/New Year break. We have been unab

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Croakey has received information that the Board of North Adelaide Medicare Local has been rolled and all staff locked out of office over the Christmas/New Year break. We have been unable to obtain any further information about this situation and the office is not answering calls.  Does anyone have any information about this issue and its potential implication for services in the North Adelaide area?

Update, 10 January

Thanks to Paul Smith from Australian Doctor for allowing republication of his story:

Paul Smith writes:

The division that ousted the CEO and board of a Medicare Local in a bizarre ‘putsch’ last month claims it had no other option because services were at risk.

Members of the Adelaide Northern Division of General Practice (ANDGP) have been accused of “forcibly” entering the headquarters of the Northern Adelaide Medicare Local <http://www.australiandoctor.com.au/news/latest-news/medicare-local-board-sacked-in-hostile-takeover>  late on 20 December. The building was apparently “occupied”for five yours by senior staff  from the division until 11.30pm that evening.

The locks were changed and, by 9am the following day, the staff and CEO of the Medicare Local were prevented from working by the division.

On Monday, the Medicare Local’s CEO Marj Ellis was dismissed along with several senior members of the Medicare Local.
Members of the ousted board — including local GPs Dr Simon Hall and Dr Chris Gillis — claim they had been removed from office as part of a “hostile takeover” with no explanation given as to why.

The division behind the coup said the Medicare Local was failing to meet its obligations to the community that had been laid down by the Federal Government.

Adelaide Northern Division — as the only formal member of the Medicare Local — originally held an extraordinary meeting on 17 December where it voted to dismiss the board.

None of the board members were informed of the meeting beforehand or that a motion of no confidence had been put forward.
In a statement, the former board said their removal “involved the delivery of a letter to the [Medicare Local] CEO on 20th December advising of the dismissal of the existing board, a direction to the staff not to communicate with existing board members and an instruction to make all records available to the incoming administration”.

“As a result the ANDGP forcibly entered the [Medicare Local] premises at 11.40pm that evening and changed the locks. By 9am on 21st December, the [Medicare Local’s] CEO and staff were prevented from functioning in the workplace.”

Former board member Lea Stevens said the actions were “extraordinary and unprecedented” and feared the situation would “seriously inhibit the potential for improved health outcomes” in the community.

“We had no warning in writing or verbally about any problems the division had with the board or the running of the Medicare Local. No formal process seems to have been followed. We don’t know what the issue is.”

But Debra Lee, one of the new directors appointed to Medicare Local, today told Australian Doctor the action had been justified because of concerns about the “slow progress” of the organisation over the 12 months since it was launched.

“It was not an easy decision for us to take … [but] the issue was particularly the [Medicare Local’s] progress against the five key objectives laid down by the Commonwealth which included objectives on issues like population planning and engagement with stakeholders,” she said.

“It was a vote of no confidence in the existing board.”

The sackings have been accepted by the Federal Health Department which said the removal of the board was “in accordance” with the organisation’s constitution.

Ms Lee claimed existing services provided by the Medicare Local, which serves some of the most disadvantaged communities in Australia, would have been put at risk if the division had not acted.

She also dismissed suggestions that members of the division had “forcibly” entered the Medicare Local’s headquarters.
“The process was lawful and respectful and transparent,” she said.

“We entered the premises with a key. As the new board we had the legal right to enter the building … We entered through the door.
“No services are at risk at this stage. As far as we are concerned, it is business as usual.”

Both sides accept the removal of the board was done legally.

Unlike many Medicare Locals, Northern Adelaide Medicare Local has only one member — the Adelaide Northern Division of General Practice — which means the division has the constitutional power to remove the board.

The Medicare Local now has an emergency transition board in place made up of four GPs and three non-GPs drawn from the division’s board.

Ms Lee said, over the coming weeks and months, the board and also the membership of the Medicare Local would be expanded with a “wider range of local stakeholders”.

• This article was first published by Australian Doctor

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