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Medicare Locals told to dump flawed contracts

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Medicare Locals have been put on notice to use an improved contract for GP after hours services after serious flaws were discovered in the terms that several offered to practices.

The Australian Medicare Local Alliance (AMLA) has issued a revised template contract for GP after hours services after the AMA successfully lobbied the Department of Health and Ageing to change contracting guidelines for Medicare Locals.

Many doctors had strongly resisted pressure to sign after hours service contracts amid concern that some Medicare Locals were trying to impose overly onerous conditions that would have added significantly to the costs and administrative burden on GP practices.

Under Government reforms, from today Medicare Locals will have responsibility for organising after hours GP services.

AMA Vice President, Professor Geoffrey Dobb, said the revised contract prepared by AMLA – with expert legal input from the AMA – should immediately replace the flawed deals offered by some Medicare Locals.

“This is a victory for common sense,” Professor Dobb said. “In their original form, many of the contracts that were issued dramatically increased red tape and compliance costs, even though the funding being provided to practices to support after hours care was unchanged in comparison to former arrangements.”

Professor Dobb urged Medicare Locals nationwide to quickly adopt the new contract template, and advised general practitioners to be wary of signing any contract for after hours services that sought to impose more onerous conditions than offered by the template document.

“The AMA has worked with AMLA in the development of a more sensible and balanced contract which is a vast improvement on the contracts previously issued by a number of Medicare Locals,” he said.

“We call on all Medicare Locals to use the new template, which will better support access to GP after hours care for patients without the unnecessary overheads and administrative burdens.”