Nervous wait for Medicare Local staff as details on alternative system remain elusive

UNHEALTHY STATE: The axing of Medicare Local leaves 150 staff across the region awaiting their fate.

UNHEALTHY STATE: The axing of Medicare Local leaves 150 staff across the region awaiting their fate.

UNCERTAINTY lies over the future of Orange Medicare Local staff and their colleagues from several offices in the region, after the announcement in the federal budget Medicare Local is to be axed.

Almost 150 staff and 50 contractors across the region are nervously waiting details of the changes planned by the government to set up an alternative to Medicare Local.

Chief executive officer of Medicare Local Western NSW, Doctor Jenny Beange, said the organisation is proud of its record of working with regional health groups, doctors and hospitals to provide specific services for communities.

“Medicare Local has a strong footprint in New South Wales, delivering 40,000 services since July last year,” Dr Beange said.

“That’s in the field of regional health, community health, allied and other services,” she said.

However she said with little detail provided about how the service will change, the organisation will now drill down to find out the implications of the announcement and whether or not jobs and services will transfer to a new organisation to be set up next year to replace Medicare Local.

At the launch of its strategic health plan late last year, the Western Local Health District (WLHD) said one of its primary goals was to continue to build on the relationship with the organisation which it said was essential to delivering a variety of health care services to people in the region.

Last month chief executive officer of the WLHD Scott McLachlan also said Medicare Local was crucial to a plan to provide a GP service out of Orange hospital to take the load off the emergency department.

However Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton said Medicare Local which was set up by the Labor government is an example of a failed health reform, saying the program was set up with minimum planning put in place.

Medicare Local has offices in Orange, Forbes, Parkes, Cowra, Condobolin, Mudgee, Gilgandra and Narromine with corporate offices in Bathurst and Dubbo.

Dr Beange said Medicare Local in this region has helped integrate health services, and provide a greater transition for patients across a range of services.

“So far we don’t have a lot of definition or detail in the announcement so we will be watching closely,” she said.

 Mr Dutton said the government is focusing on cutting red tap while continuing to provide appropriate services.

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