Primary focus on healthcare

The Gippsland organisation which aims to identify local health needs and coordinate primary healthcare services remains in limbo as it waits for impending changes to the sector.

Gippsland Medicare Local will no longer exist on 1 July next year, as Medicare Locals across the country are replaced with a new model known as Primary Health Networks.

But the GML team is hopeful of winning a tender to run the local Primary Health Network to allow a seamless transition.

“There are a number of decisions that have to be made to allow that to happen,” GML chairwoman Dr Nola Maxfield said.

A GML advisory committee is currently developing the bid to run the network locally, buoyed by the fact the Gippsland boundary will remain the same under the new model, unlike other areas.

“We think we’re in a better position now to move onto the next stage and we don’t have to do that amalgamating as opposed to just about everywhere else in Australia,” Dr Maxfield said.

Medicare Locals have been in place for about two years.

Dr Maxfield acknowledged informing the public of exactly what Medicare Locals did, had been a challenge.

“The name has been confusing for them and we’ll have people turn up and want to cash their Medicare cheques,” she said.

“We’re not providing services. It’s difficult for people to understand that we’re more of an enabling organisation that sits behind that.

“Medicare Local is there to identify what the health needs are for people in Gippsland and try to make sure that the services that are provided are appropriate and well-coordinated.”

GML has 200 members including GPs, allied health professionals and primary health organisations.

Its replacement with a Primary Health Network comes after a Federal Government review of Medicare Locals found patients were continuing to experience fragmented and disjointed healthcare.

“(Under the Primary Health Network model) there’s a stronger focus on having stronger community networks, but we were going down that path anyway,” Dr Maxfield said.

She said the government wanted to see the development of clinicians’ advisory groups and GML had already established one in South Gippsland, with a view to introducing them in other parts if the region.

“They bring together a variety of clinicians, not just GPs, but allied health, psychologists, practice managers and community health,” Dr Maxfield said.

“We’re getting together a variety of viewpoints and looking at what the issues are.”

Dr Maxfield said another initiative being established by GML in conjunction with GPs, specialists and other primary healthcare providers, was ‘care pathways’, or plans for how a particular illness is managed in a particular community.

This information could be accessed by health professionals online.

“There’s care pathways for a multitude of different things. It could be a particular type of cancer or a mental health thing,” Dr Maxfield said.

“What’s put in place in Bairnsdale will be different to what happens in the Latrobe Valley or South Gippsland.

“This sort of work is something we think Primary Health Networks will be doing in future.”

Applications to run a Primary Health Network will close on 27 January.