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Consensus on primary care reform

Calls made for government to listen to the health sector’s ideas on local primary health organisations, including a change of name.

The government must listen to the health sector’s ideas when establishing local primary health organisations, starting with renaming the proposed Medicare Locals. This was the consensus from primary care stakeholders gathered at a roundtable last month, hosted by the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association.

“The government appears to have a very narrow definition of primary care, as a one-on-one clinical service funded by Medicare. However, primary and community health care is a broad sector which includes activities such as health promotion, population health interventions and community education,” Prue Power, AHHA executive director, said.

“If the government is genuine about taking 100 per cent funding and policy responsibility for primary health it needs to define what it means by key terms, such as ‘primary care’ and ‘mental health’ and then give Medicare Locals a name which accurately reflects these definitions.”

Of greater concern, however, is that the success of these organisations will hinge on existing relationships which must be built up at the local level to ensure improvements in patient care and access to services, Power said.

“We know with the release of the Medicare Local boundaries that some of these local organisations will have very large areas to cover. This creates physical challenges as well as risks to existing partnerships and collaborations that are occurring across the country within smaller localities.

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