The Abbott Government has slashed the NSW Medicare Local Network overnight by more than half, going from 17 specialised communities to just nine new Primary Health Networks (PHN).
Local Members Stephen Jones and Sharon Bird say this decision was done without consultation and are deeply concerned the boundary changes will result in a disruption of services and a loss of regional focus as the PHNs will be spread too thin.
“There’s a reason they were called Medicare Locals”, said Stephen Jones.
“Labor created the Medicare Local network to deliver community-specific services based on local need. We know that people in regional areas like the Illawarra and Southern Highlands have different health needs to those in major cities.
“We have higher rates of chronic disease, obesity and mental health issues – that’s what the Illawarra Shoalhaven Medicare Local was set up to tackle.
“Now we’re lumped in with a diverse range of regions stretching from Southern Sydney, into rural Western NSW and all the way down to the Victorian border.
“Health is not a one-size-fits-all problem. It requires local knowledge, community-based programs and dedicated providers. All of this is now at risk under the Abbott Government’s expansive PHNs.
“The worst thing about this decision is that our Medicare Locals were only just getting up and running. They’d ironed out all the bugs and now the Government is closing them down and asking them to re-tender.”
Sharon Bird says the Illawarra Shoalhaven Medicare Local has only been in operation for two years and is just starting to make a real difference in the local community.
“Our Medicare Local provides workforce support to local GPs; operate a number of programs and services for mental health, chronic disease management, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, child and adolescent health services including Headspace; and support to people in residential aged care,” Sharon Bird said.
“Before the election, Tony Abbott promised that no Medicare Locals would close. This latest broken promise will put more pressure on our health system which Tony Abbott is dismantling with more than $50 billion in cuts to hospitals, a $1.3 billion increase in the cost of medicines and the GP Tax which will rip the heart out of Medicare and drive up the costs of diagnostics.”