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AUSTRALIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (WA)
The Federal Government should scrap the failed experiment of Medicare Locals as quickly as possible, AMA (WA) Vice President Dr Michael Gannon said today.
“We have talked about this issue for too long. Now is the time for strong leadership and decisive action,” Dr Gannon said.
“All Medicare Local accounts should be frozen, any planned staff hiring be cancelled, their publicity campaigns be brought to an end and all Medicare Locals be told that their days are numbered.”
“The AMA (WA) has consistently argued that Medicare Locals were a political ploy of the previous Federal Labor Government, with virtually no relationship to medicine, general practice or patient care. When it came to health, they are a flashing red light alerting all Australians to the alarming waste of money by the former Rudd/Gillard/Roxon Government,” he said.
Dr Gannon said he was extremely concerned that Medicare Locals would now go on a spending spree if quick action to freeze accounts was not taken by the Federal Government.
“Most MLs have many millions of dollars in their bank accounts and there is evidence that they have salted away cash with little or no oversight.”
“The duplication of Medicare Locals is frightening in its incompetence. For example, every role in Medicare Locals is duplicated eight times in WA alone. There are 61 of these organisations in Australia and most seem to have a publicity officer and most have a large staff and many millions of dollars dormant in bank accounts.”
“The time has come to stop talking about this issue and act quickly,” Dr Gannon said.
“Failure to act will only acerbate the issue and continue the political and medical farce that MLs have become.
“Despite the huge amount of additional funding Medicare Locals have received, there has been little to no evidence of any significant improvements to the health of Australians.”
Dr Gannon acknowledged that there were a handful of projects that had been effective but these did not require the “heavy handed bureaucratic infrastructure that had become MLs”.
“MLs funding should have gone straight into General Practice initiatives which would have directly benefited patients,” Dr Gannon said.
“GPs are the cornerstone of our health system, and are acutely aware of existing gaps in access to care for patients,” Dr Gannon said.
A recent survey of GPs by the AMA clearly indicated 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.