Two years after defunding by the former Labor government, the Tweed Valley General Practice Network is to close at the end of June 2014.
The Network was set up in 1993 as part of the initial Divisions program. It was successful in providing representation and advocacy for the general practitioners of the Tweed Valley as well co-ordinating a number of programs for disadvantaged groups. However it has struggled financially since the transfer of general practice funding to the North Coast Medicare Local in April 2012.
Options such as merging or mothballing the Network were considered by the Board but closure was the recommendation put to the membership in May through a postal Extraordinary General Meeting.
The remaining assets of the Network will transferred to the University Centre for Rural Health to fund practice oriented educational events for at least the next two years. The sessions will be co-ordinated by the UCRH Murwillumbah campus and will be held in both Kingscliff and Tweed Heads.
TVGPN Chairman, Bob Meehan, was disappointed at the closure of the Network. Unlike may other rural Divsions, the Network's focus on "whole of practice support" was reflected in its membership that included practice nurses and practice managers in addition to general practitioners. The UCRH education program will continue this focus on "whole of practice" education.
The closure of the TVGPN will represent a diminished voice for general practitioners in the North Coast Medicare Local. However, UCRH, is a recent addition to the NCML membership and is aware of some of the general practice issues on the Tweed.
Medicare Locals are themselves to be defunded next year and replaced by Primary Care Networks. The relationship between practices, Divisions and Medicare Locals with these new PCNs, if any, is still being considered by the Department of Health.