Overhaul of Medicare Locals needed
The AMA is calling on the Abbott Government to comprehensively overhaul the Medicare Locals model introduced by the previous Labor Government, including ditching the name, ‘Medicare Locals’. The call is included in the AMA’s submission to the Australian Government's Review of Medicare Locals.
AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said the AMA submission highlights significant problems in the design and implementation of Medicare Locals, and recommends fundamental changes to the model implemented by the former Government.
While the AMA recognises the need for a network of primary health care organisations (PHCOs) to improve the integration of health services within primary health care and improve the interface between primary care and hospitals, the current Medicare Locals model has not delivered.
Results from the recent AMA survey of 1212 GPs from around Australia indicate that Medicare Locals have:
- failed to improve the coordination and delivery of primary health care services;
- increased red tape and compliance costs;
- failed to communicate effectively with GPs;
- not engaged meaningfully with general practice;
- duplicated existing services; and
- been unable to demonstrate any improvement to access to after-hours GP services, despite significant extra funding.
In its submission, the AMA recommends reforms that focus on moving to a network of PHCOs that are:
- GP-led and locally responsive;
- focused on supporting GPs in caring for patients, working collaboratively with other health care professionals;
- not overburdened by excessive paperwork and policy prescription;
- focused on addressing service gaps, not replicating existing services; and
- better aligned with Local Hospital Networks, with a strong emphasis on improving the primary care/hospital interface.
The AMA will work with the new Government to implement sensible reforms that support improved access to care for patients.