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Medicare Locals are duds: GPs

An overwhelming majority of doctors think their Medicare Local has done nothing to improve health care and ought to be scrapped, according to an AMA survey.

In a damning indictment of the previous Government’s ambitious $1.8 billion replacement for the Divisions of General Practice system, almost 75 per cent of 1212 GPs surveyed by the AMA said the establishment of Medicare Locals had not resulted in any improvement in access to, or delivery of, primary health care, and should be scrapped.

The result reflects widespread disenchantment among GPs with Medicare Locals, not least regarding the inept and heavy-handed administration of after-hours GP care service funding, including the imposition of onerous contract conditions, and a lack of practical support for medical practices.

More than 55 per cent of GPs surveyed reported that the after-hours GP care access arrangements put in place by their Medicare Local were inadequate, and almost 46 per cent complained the contracts put in place were unfair and unreasonable.

Similarly, 57 per cent reported that the support they received from their Medicare Local in preparing themselves for the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record system was “not effective”.

In a damning outcome for an organisation meant to identify and fill gaps in care, virtually half of all respondents said Medicare Locals were duplicating existing GP services.

One observed that: “It appears that Medicare Locals are becoming more and more our competitors. I have a strong and respectful relationship with my local medical surgery competitors, however that cannot be said for our Medicare Local”.

Reflecting widespread frustration that Medicare Locals were not heeding local expertise, almost 70 per cent of GPs said their Medicare Local had failed to engage with them about the design of health services needed in the area, and more than 60 per cent felt that their Medicare Local did not recognise or value their input.

One survey respondent commented that: “I am a [Medicare Local] Board member, and I am sorry to say that the Medicare Local has been a failure in engaging with GPs. It has an adversarial attitude to general practice, which was the result of an acrimonious union of two divisions [of General Practice]”.

Adrian Rollins