Mick Hill and Chris Thiesfield are concerned about the changes to the Integrated Team Care program and were among a group to meet with Federal MP for Hinkler, Keith Pitt.
Mick Hill and Chris Thiesfield are concerned about the changes to the Integrated Team Care program and were among a group to meet with Federal MP for Hinkler, Keith Pitt. Chris Burns

Aboriginal locals warn of boycott amid health change

ABORIGINAL locals warned they will boycott an indigenous health service provider which has won the tender to support chronic diseases.

About eight clients of the Integrated Team Care program held a private meeting with Federal MP Keith Pitt yesterday, to express their concerns about having to swap from one healthcare provider to another, and the fear they will lose their existing services without having a choice in the matter.

The federally funded program is for indigenous people who are enduring chronic diseases and it helps fund expensive healthcare that could keep them out of hospital.

Primary Health Networks (PHN) has been in control of program for the past year, but only as stewards while the tendering process was completed.

But from July 1 that changes to IWC, which is an Aboriginal run health service provider and will carry on the same services.

The trouble is that Aboriginal clients of the Integrated Team Care, who have traditionally been dubious of health services, are happy to stay with PHN now that it has gained their trust.

An attendee of the meeting, Mick Hill, said he received a phone call two weeks ago from providers asking for permission to transfer his medical data.

He will not give it, and expressed concern that many other locals will avoid medical treatment because they are uncomfortable with the change.

Mr Hill said he naturally resists seeking medical support.

"I was very reluctant, I have still gotta fight to go to hospital, or see a doctor, because it's that hereditary sort of thing that's built in there,” Mr Hill said.

"The issue with Aboriginal health is going to hospitals and putting trust in someone you don't really know.

"It is working with an organisation that has built up a relationship, they've got this relationship and trust and all this sort of thing, and all of a sudden we've got this phone call saying 'you've got to go here now'.”

Geoffrey Smith, who has watched his wife Jane benefit from ITC in the past year, said the changeover from PHN to IWC was a bureaucratic change that did not consider the local community.

"They are growing something for their empire,” Mr Smith said.

"We want something for ourselves, we don't care for empires.

"We want a good medical service which we are getting.”

Another concerned local, Chris Thiesfield, said the ITC funded specialists in areas such as diabetes.

"What ITC does is pay three visits a year for you to go see your specialist to make sure you stay on top of your diabetes,” Mr Thiesfield said.

"With PHN I felt they were neutral, you know what I mean, they didn't take a position.

"They were just good to deal with, and you felt comfortable.

"It's a trust thing, you're not going to tell someone what's wrong with you unless you trust them, and you feel like you can open up and talk to them.”

Mr Pitt would not comment about the meeting, or how he would proceed with concerns, except to say that his meetings with constituents were confidential.

IWC general manager Wayne Mulvany said that the indigenous service provider would be supplying the same services as the PHN.

"The ITC service provider's role is to administer participant access to the program and assist in facilitation of additional services,” Mr Mulvany said.

"This means that the participant does not have to come to or use IWC's other services and remains a patient of their existing GP or health professional.”

Mr Mulvany said the transition was still happening.

"In the meantime, we are able to take referrals and enquiries on 1300 492 492 or itc@iwc.org.au.” 

PHN's Central Queensland, Wide Bay and Sunshine Coast chief executive Pattie Hudson said it had been running the program since last year until it completed the competitive tender process for the 2019-20 financial year.

It meant the service could continue during the transition.

"The PHN recognises the importance of having an Aboriginal medical service deliver the program to the community,” Mrs Hudson said.

"The PHN is a commissioning body, not a service delivery organisation.”

Mrs Hudson said the PHN had met with indigenous elders throughout the community and listened to their concerns.

"Over the coming weeks we will support clients to transition to the appropriate primary care provider in accordance with their needs.”

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