By JOHN VAN KLAVEREN
WINDING up Geelong’s Medicare Local will cost $2 million, a Senate hearing has been told.
Barwon Medicare Local, which co-ordinates local primary health care services and works to fill gaps in service provision, will close when its funding ceases mid-next year.
Federal Government will replace it with a primary health network stretching to Warrnambool.
The Senate Select Committee on Health held public hearings in Geelong this week.
Barwon Medicare Local chief Jason Trethowan told the hearing long-term leases on two offices contributed to the high wind-up cost.
BML intended to tender for the new primary health network but was still waiting on details of the proposed organisation, he told the hearing.
Mr Trethowan said BML had yet to lose any staff despite the uncertainty.
“I would imagine that if information were delayed further into the New Year it would certainly be a risk,” he said.
Mr Trethowan told the hearing that losing BML’s work with allied health providers and in mental health would be a setback for the region.
He said a report to the Government recommending the change from 61 Medicare Locals nationally to 30 primary health networks failed to address the “critical role” of allied health.
“If we are an outcomes-driven organisation that wants to reduce the rates of chronic disease or manage chronic disease more effectively in supporting an ageing population we cannot do that without connections with allied health.”
Mr Trethowan told the hearing a “strong connection” with allied health providers would be needed for a primary health network to succeed.
He was keen to see any new organisation continue BML’s investment in the region so far.
Committee chair and ALP Senator Deborah O’Neill said the hearing heard of widespread concerns about the “constant erosion of care” under new federal health funding arrangements.
“The Abbott Government has cut funding to Barwon Health by $44 million over the next four years and by $582 million over the next decade,” she said.
“Local Liberal MPs have gone silent when they should be shouting from the rooftops against these cuts to their community.”