Our Medicare Locals must stay

22 April 2014

illawarra_shoalhaven_medicare_local.jpgMember for Throsby Stephen Jones and Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird say the Abbott Governments plan to scrap the 61 community-based Medicare Locals in next months Budget will axe over 30 local frontline health jobs and cut services for regional patients who already struggle to get access to primary care.

There is a dramatic difference in the health needs of patients living in metropolitan centre and those in rural and regional areas like the Illawarra and Southern Highlands, said Stephen Jones.

Dismantling the collaborative, locally-driven Medicare Local system and shifting patients back into a larger health network with centralised control is not the answer.

When Labor was in Government we established Medicare Locals to help navigate patients through preventative health care, take a load off the hospitals and address the specific health needs of their community.

The Illawarra Shoalhaven Medicare Local employs over 30 frontline health workers that provide services in the crucial areas of mental health and the management of chronic and lifestyle diseases.

Sharon Bird says the Illawarra has a higher than national average incidence of a lot of chronic diseases like diabetes, with the instance of local sufferers at least one percent over the national average of 5.6 percent.

Shutting down the system would not only put the wellbeing of these patients at risk but also the mental health of some of the most vulnerable people in our community, said Ms Bird.

The Illawarra Shoalhaven Medicare Local operates the two Headspace locations in the region that help young people with mental health and drug and alcohol issues. As well as the Perinatal Mental Health Team, who intervene with people suffering from anxiety and post-natal depression.

Our community-run Medicare Locals are doing a good job of keeping these people off the streets and out of hospital, said Stephen Jones.

Tony Abbotts plan to axe the system will leave local patients and thousands like them around the country worse off.