In a submission to the Australian Government’s review of Medicare Locals the Australian Health Care Reform Alliance (AHCRA) has urged a “multidisciplinary integrated approach to health care, arguing that significant evidence favours this model as an effective way of meeting patients’ needs.

Citing the management of diabetes and mental health conditions as “obvious examples” of the benefits of coordinated care, the coalition of some 30 peak health groups hoped Medicare Locals would work alongside GP practices – the majority of which still comprise of one or two practitioners – to evolve the sector into a network of multidisciplinary services.

This would ensure consumers could receive “the right care at the right time from the right practitioner in a team-based manner.”

Noting that Medicare Locals had made a strong effort to involve GPs in the new entities, the advocacy group stressed the centrality of primary health care, and noted that improvements could include performance evaluation based on indicators reflecting how the community wants the primary health care system to perform. Key to this would be equity of access and treatment outcomes.

The AHCRA responded to the following criteria of the government’s review of Medicare Locals -

  • The Role of Medicare Locals and their performance against stated objectives

  • Performance of Medicare Locals in administering existing programs, e.g. After Hours Care 

  • Recognising general practice as the cornerstone of primary care in the functions and governance structures of Medicare Locals

  • Ensuring Commonwealth funding supports clinical services, rather than administration

  • Assessing processes for determining market failure and service intervention, so existing services are not disrupted or discouraged

AHCRA's submission can be seen on line. 

Commenting on the government's review of Medicare Locals, Stephen Leeder, Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine at the Menzies Centre for Health Policy and School of Public Health, and Editor-in-Chief, Medical Journal of Australia, wrote: "A world tour of health services in affluent societies would find all of them bothered by one thing above all others – how to link hospital and community care more effectively.  "This is not a fad: it arises from the reality that increasing numbers of older people and people with multiple serious and continuing illnesses require joined-up care that moves from hospital to community and back as easily as crossing a leafy lane."
 A summary of some key submissions to the review can be found on Crikey
* Local writer Mungo MacCallum has penned a forthright opinion piece on the current debate about Medicare and other health related issues in the Byron Shire Echo, Jan 7, 2014, page 10 -