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Uncertainly for rural health under Medicare Locals

AMA Victoria remains sceptical about the capacity of Medicare Locals to provide quality health care to rural communities.
AMA Victoria Vice President Dr Tony Bartone fears that rural areas may lose GPs under the new model, which had a 1 July deadline to replace many of the existing Divisions of General Practice.
According to AMA Victoria, new funding arrangements to be brought in under Medicare Locals may impact on GPs ability to continue to provide after hours care to their local communities.
“From July 2013, a number of federal Practice Incentive Payments (PIPs) that have supported rural practices to provide after-hours care will be discontinued, with the funding transferred to Medicare Locals” said Dr Bartone.
“We hope this does not lead to a reduction in after-hour funding support for small rural practices or a centralisation of services to larger regional centres”.
“Rural practices have typically relied heavily on divisions for services such as IT support – which has kept some GPs businesses going. Medicare locals will not provide the same level of support for local practices”.
Dr Bartone noted that Medicare Locals will cover huge geographical areas including towns over 400km apart.
“The truth is Medicare Locals are not local”.
“We’ve seen these types of initiatives fail in the UK and New Zealand” said Dr Bartone.
An attempt last month to wind up the Australian General Practice Network and transfer its assets to the new national Medicare Locals body failed to attract enough votes of the membership to pass.
 “The defeat of the motion to wind up the APGN shows the level of concern that exists about Medicare Locals and the future of General Practice in Australia”.
 For more information please contact Struan Robertson on 0437 450 506

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