Delayed Primary Health Network announcements hurting patients, staff

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

In the May 2014 budget, the Commonwealth Government announced that it would cease funding Medicare Locals, which would be replaced by a smaller number of Primary Health Networks to be operational by 1 July 2015.  Despite the insecurity of their positions, around 3000 staff in Medicare Locals across Australia have worked in good faith with the Commonwealth Department of Health over the past year on a timeline and processes laid down by the Department to close Medicare Locals and prepare transition arrangements.  They have continued to deliver programs and services as required in their funding agreements, despite uncertainty as to how and where those programs and services would be delivered, and by whom, beyond 30 June.  In particular, they have focused on ensuring continuity of programs for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, despite the uncertainty of their own circumstances.

The successful bidders for the new Primary Health Networks were to be announced by end March, allowing a very tight 3 months for programs to be transitioned to the new organisations. With only 11 weeks until these new organisations will need to be fully operational - with governing boards, clinical and community advisory councils, premises and staff to support primary health across much larger regions than in the past - there is still no announcement from the Commonwealth about Primary Health Network operators.

Staff in Medicare Locals deserve clarity about their employment arrangements.  Clients of Medicare Local programs deserve clarity about how and where they will be able to access services, and who will be providing services to them. Continuity of programs including mental health and Indigenous health services, and those supporting access to general practice after hours must be assured.  And the future Primary Health Networks need to be able to get on with their work programs as soon as possible, to minimise further disruption to organised primary health across Australia. The Department of Health must move rapidly to support and facilitate the transition process.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association and the Public Health Association of Australia call on Minister Ley to make her announcements regarding the Primary Health Network tenders without further delay.

The AHHA represents Australia’s largest group of health care providers in public hospitals, community and primary health sectors and advocates for universal high quality healthcare to benefit the whole community.

Media enquiries:

Alison Verhoeven, AHHA Chief Executive

0403 282 501