A waste of money

The nation’s doctors think the government can’t get anything right when it comes to health reform.

By Stephen Easton

The Australian Medical Association has rubbished plans announced this week by the acting Minister for Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, to establish a new administrative body to run the nation’s Medicare Locals.

Minister Butler announced this Wednesday that the Australian General Practice Network (AGPN) was the preferred option to fill the role and would be invited to “establish a new national body to support and coordinate the network of Medicare Locals and help lead the Gillard Government’s investments in primary healthcare”.

“Primary health care is the part of the health system that Australians use the most. Our Government is investing more than ever before in the front end primary care so that people receive more services closer to home,” Mr Butler said.

“[…] The new national body will help Medicare Locals to achieve their goals by providing national leadership and promoting close communication and collaboration across the Medicare Local network and with other parts of the health care sector and consumers.”

The acting Minister for Health and Ageing said that as the Medicare Local national body, the AGPN would expand its current role as the peak body for the Divisions of General Practice, to engage with allied health professionals, Indigenous health services and consumers.

The new national body would also be specifically tasked with promoting better links between primary health care, aged care, hospitals, and the social care sector.

But today, a spokesperson for the Australian Medical Association (AMA) dismissed the idea as unnecessary, and part of a pattern of the government diverting health funding away from where it is most needed.

“The general view of the AMA is that a mechanism like that is not needed,” the spokesperson said. “It just becomes another bureaucratic cost; more resources that could be spent at the coalface are spent in a bureaucracy instead.

“The AMA wants GPs to be managing the Medicare Local boards [but] the AGPN decision is about a coordinating body on policy, which is removed from the Medicare Local boards.

“The AMA has always said that there is potential for a primary healthcare organisation to assist general practices [to] organise support services for patients, but what is currently on the table threatens to divert money away from general practices and divert patients away from doctors.

“It is absolutely 180 degrees opposite of what we thought was the whole point of having the Medicare Locals, so we don’t accept that the current Medicare Local model will work. We actually think it is a threat to the system; the system should be built on the strength of the GP, not attempting to work away from the GP.”

The doctors’ association also feels that the government’s health reform efforts are light on detail about how access to primary healthcare can be improved for older Australians.

“Again, there aren’t any proposals even on the table at the moment that will significantly change how the elderly can access hospitals, how the elderly will get better support into their homes or that the government is serious about getting medical services into residential aged care facilities.”

The AMA’s comments follow a fiery speech delivered to the National Press Club yesterday by the Association’s president, Dr Steve Hambleton, in which he compared former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s “heroic vision” of healthcare reform with the “sad reality” of intergovernmental politics, and said the states were “once again calling the tune”.

Tags: agpn, ama, australian-medical-association, medicare-local, minister-butler, minister-for-health-and-ageing, minister-for-mental-health-and-ageing, steve-hambleton,

2 thoughts on “A waste of money

  1. The AMAs attack on the government over Medicare Locals demonstrates once again that it is a union arguing for member rights to access reimbursement. They are not arguing how the dollar should be spent to get the best outcome for the client instead for the best outcome for the GP’s.
    If services are offerred by health professionals beside GPs why should GPS be managing them. They do not even understand those health services which can be seen in GP clinics when they have tried to employ health professionals with the clinic.

  2. another waste of taxpayers’ money. We need our dollars to be spent on Hospitals, doctors and nurses not other pen pushers. We’re talking millions of dollars being given to people sitting behind a desk.
    The Liberals are silent on this issues and the Greens don’t even know about it.

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