Speech - The Government must support Medicare Locals

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21 November 2013

Sharon Claydon has called on the Abbott government to pledge their support for the Medical Locals around the country and provide certainty for their future, highlighting the fantastic work of the Hunter Medicare Local and their role in delivering primary health care in the region.    

 

Sharon Claydon has called on the Abbott government to pledge their support for the Medical Locals around the country and provide certainty for their future, highlighting the fantastic work of the Hunter Medicare Local and their role in delivering primary health care in the region.    

FEDERATION CHAMBER
THURSDAY, 21 NOVEMBER 2013
SHARON CLAYDON MEMBER FOR NEWCASTLE: Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending the 10th anniversary celebration of the Hunter Medicare Local’s GP Access After Hours program.

It was particularly nice to welcome back the founder of the program, Dr Arn Sprogis, and to acknowledge the contribution of the outgoing CEO, Mark Foster, who has taken up a new role as Medical Director of the Awabakal Aboriginal Medical Service.

GP Access After Hours has enjoyed bipartisan support in our region and I thank my Labor colleagues and the Member for Paterson for their continued support.

The program provides comprehensive after-hours primary medical care for patients of the Hunter region, including my electorate of Newcastle. It has provided services to more than one million patients and plays particular importance for parents, giving them direct access to a GP for their children, when they need it.

The Medicare Local’s core purpose is simple - keeping people well and out of hospital – and the Hunter’s program is a leader in New South Wales, with less hospital admissions in the region for acute conditions like gastroenteritis and ear, nose and throat infections.

In the past 12 months the after-hours service managed 52,205 patients in their clinics, including more than 8,000 that had initially presented to a hospital emergency department.

Hunter Medicare Local continues to expand their services and I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge just two of their other successful programs.

The Connecting Care Program targets chronic disease and is making fantastic connections with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to encourage earlier detection and better management of chronic disease, helping us to further Close the Gap.

Hunter Medicare Local also delivers a primary mental health care program that reached more 3,000 patients in 2012-13, referring them to psychologists for some 15,000 sessions.

Hunter Medicare Local is a core component of Newcastle’s primary health care delivery and I am concerned for their future under this new government.

Disjointed and confused messaging throughout the election campaign, where Medicare Locals were going to be shut, then under review, then not going to be shut, then maybe changing direction, has left patients, families and health care workers concerned for how primary health care will be delivered.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association have called on the Health Minister to come clean on the government’s plan for the centres to allay public concerns.

Medicare Locals are doing exactly what they were designed to do– they’re finding and addressing service gaps in the primary health sector and keeping people out of hospital.

Closure of the Hunter Medicare Local would place significant stress on our local hospitals.  I call on the Minister for Health to pledge his support for our Medical Locals and provide the certainty they deserve.

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Authorised by Sharon Claydon MP, 427 Hunter Street Newcastle