Prognosis for Medicare Locals 'still unclear'

06 November, 2013

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) is calling on health minister Peter Dutton to come clean on the federal government's plans for Medicare Locals.

"Despite the prime minister's statement during the election campaign that the coalition would not be shutting any Medicare Locals, the health minister has appeared to back away from this commitment," Alison Verhoeven, chief executive of the AHHA said recently.

"The ongoing uncertainty is leaving patients, families and health service staff in limbo.

"The effective and efficient provision and coordination of primary health care services is a critical component of a comprehensive health system which can significantly improve health outcomes and reduce overall costs.

"The establishment of Medicare Locals has been an important step to improving the coordination of care, addressing service gaps and improving the patient journey between the primary health, community health and acute hospital sectors.

"There is still opportunity for further gains to be made and the simplification of funding arrangements and reporting requirements would reduce the administrative burden on Medicare Locals allowing greater focus on coordination of services and improving access to care.

"The National Primary Health Care Strategic Framework provides a vision for primary health care in Australia which aims to: improve health care for all Australians, particularly those who currently experience inequitable health outcomes; keep people healthy and prevent illness; reduce the need for unnecessary hospital presentations; and improve the management of complex and chronic conditions.

"The finalisation of bi-lateral National Primary Health Care Strategic Framework implementation plans with the states and territories must be a priority for the government.

"The government has been up-front about its intention to reduce expenditure but this must not be at the expense of effective programs which are having a positive impact on the health of Australians."