Local health projects tremble under cost-cutting axe
Reports today say some Medicare Local executives have been warned that the Federal Government plans to shut down the current system.
Medicare Local is an initiative of the Rudd government, which put up 1.8 billion to organise community-specific health programs and facilities.
There has been speculation over the future of the program, and new ABC reports allege that some Medicare chiefs have been told that the scheme will be ditched in next month’s budget.
A series of conference calls were reportedly held between the chief executives of the 61 community-based health organisations last week to discuss the plans.
According to the ABC, the current proposals under serious consideration include;
- ending funding to Medicare Locals
- establishing larger statutory agencies to funnel state and federal funding
- heavier involvement of private health insurers
- more focus on GP involvement
- putting services out to public tender
- abolishing the peak body Australian Medicare Local Alliance
Angst is growing among healthcare officials already, especially for those in rural, regional and Local public facilities.
A letter published by the media outlet urges the head of each Medicare Local to lobby their Member of Parliament.
“I would urge MLs [Medicare Locals] to continue to engage across the political spectrum and highlight, not only the good work of MLs but what would be lost if MLs were not there,” it said.
Concerns have been raised that the changes may create a centralised control structure, moving away from the locally-tailored programs currently offered.
Medicare Local facilities employ 3,000 people nationwide.
The Federal Government says it has completed its review of the $1.8 billion scheme, but has made no further decision.
The strongest indications of an impending sale have come from Health Minister Peter Dutton, who says there are “a lot of unanswered questions about the formal role of Medicare Locals”.
“Our overall desire, not just Medicare Locals, but across the portfolio, is to, in a very tight fiscal environment, get every dollar back to the frontline service,” he said last year.
“We understand that there's some good work, but there's also a lot of question marks around what's being done.”
The following video shows Tony Abbott stating “we are not shutting any Medicare Locals” during a debate in late 2013.