Time for Primary Health Networks to get to work, and the Commonwealth to demonstrate health policy leadership

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Today’s announcement by Health Minister Ley of the successful bids for the new Primary Health Networks (PHNs) has provided welcome clarity for the organised primary care sector, their staff and clients, but the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) says strong support is now needed from all levels of government and from professional groups to ensure the PHNs are able to get to work and make a positive contribution to the health system, particularly in the commissioning of regional health services based on community needs.

“With only 11 weeks for PHNs to be fully operational – with new partners, governing boards, clinical and community advisory councils, premises and staff to support primary health across much larger regions than in the past – the job will be challenging. Maintaining patient services, for example in mental health, must be a priority as transition plans are implemented and organisations are developed,” says AHHA Chief Executive, Alison Verhoeven

“The previous transition from Divisions of General Practice to Medicare Locals (MLs) was problematic in some areas, and similar difficulties can be expected. It will be important to build on the experience of MLs, and not lose hard-learned lessons.

“Support will be required from the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments, as well as professional groups, to ensure the new organisations are fully effective in a timely manner. Stronger policy leadership on the role of primary care is needed from the Commonwealth in particular – work on the National Primary Care Strategic Framework, which has been in limbo for 18 months, must be reactivated.

“Despite the disruption of the past 12 months, there is significant goodwill amongst all parts of the health system and across Australia to ensure that the new PHNs make a strong contribution to a high functioning primary care sector, maintaining continuing of care for clients, and exercising leadership in collaboration with clinicians, consumers and the community, to develop innovative models of care which will improve health outcomes for all Australians. The AHHA looks forward to working closely with them.

“The hard work and commitment of Medicare Local staff and board members across Australia over the past 12 months, as they faced uncertainty about their employment, must be acknowledged. Every day, more than 3000 Medicare Local staff across the country have continued providing important services to support the health needs of their clients, many of whom are amongst the most vulnerable in our communities. It is unfortunate that some staff have today learned of their loss of employment via news reports in the media. The AHHA applauds the Medicare Local network and staff for their dedication and resilience,” says Ms Verhoeven.

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