Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said on ABC’s Q&A that Medicare Locals had developed as a ‘natural successor’ to divisions of general practice to assist primary care at the local level.
Although this sounds great, it seems that Medicare Locals are wasting tax dollars and are creating red tape. Medicare Locals are funded by the federal government and responsible for funding local health projects such as after hours care.
This week, Medicare Locals have been put on notice by the AMA because they are rolling out onerous contracts for GP after hours services. Although the after hours work is still done by doctors and nurses, the funding is now in the hands of Medicare Locals instead of the state health service.
It also appears that Medicare Locals are sending out new contracts to GP practices for PIP incentive payments (‘PIP’ is a bonus paid out to practices if certain targets are met). The contracts require GPs to produce lots of data e.g. quarterly reports, and contain many clauses that give full control to Medicare Locals but put all the risks, costs and responsibilities on health professionals.
It is expected that many GPs will not sign these contracts. This will have serious consequences for patient care.
If we do not stop Medicare Locals, doctors and practice managers will be wasting valuable time behind their computers generating reports, instead of helping patients. Medicare Locals should be supporting health professionals to improve patient-access to health care facilities.
A recent survey also brought to light that about fifty percent of Medicare Local staff is busy writing reports instead of providing or facilitating services to patients or clinicians.
Whichever party wins the next election, this needs to change. Medicare Locals, please make it easier for us to provide patient care – not harder!