What's in store for health?

MEDICARE Local is a new word in the health vocabulary but its shape is proving difficult to pin down.

Since previous Prime Minister Kevin Rudd undertook to reform the health system nationally, with the Commonwealth the dominant health funding partner and picking up 60 per cent of the bill, the world of health reform has been wobbling on its axis.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has moved to a 50-50 Commonwealth-State health funding model for the promised national reforms and local health representatives.

Since last weekend’s Council of Australian Governments meeting between the Prime Minister and State premiers, local health representatives have been waiting for the other shoe to drop so they know what to do next.

The CEO of the Mid North Coast Division of General Practice, Peter Spence, said they were waiting for expressions of interest to be called so they could apply to become one of the first wave of the new Medicare Locals, due to be established by mid 2011.

They have known for months that the geographical area for our Medicare Local will be the same as the ‘old’ North Coast Area Health Service, but they still do not know what funding it will receive or exactly what roles and responsibilities it will be expected to fulfil in the next couple of years .

“We have been working with the four Divisions of General Practice along the Coast – the Hastings Macleay; Mid North Coast, Northern Rivers and Tweed Heads and with North Coast GP Training on an expression of interest for a Medicare Local,” Mr Spence said.

“We have been in talks since the middle of last year and we have been ready for the last month.”

Among their worries are whether the roles and resources will meet the promises and expectations.

“We need to ensure we don’t lose what we have built up, while replacing one with another,” Mr Spence said.

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