GRAMPIANS Medicare Local will close its doors after the Federal Government announced plans to replace the service with Primary Health Networks in the Federal Budget on Tuesday.
Grampians Medicare Local – which employs 65 staff through offices in Horsham, Ararat and Ballarat – will make way for the new service from July 1, 2015.
Grampians Medicare Local chief executive Andrew McPherson said it was too early to say what the closure would mean for health outcomes in the Wimmera.
“The functions of Grampians Medicare Local are supposed to be performed by the new Primary Health Networks,” he said.
“Primary Health Networks will be far larger than Medicare Locals and there will be far fewer of them as a result.
“What’s not clear is that we don’t know how big these Primary Health Networks will be.
“We’re not sure yet how local services will be maintained and how communities and health stakeholders will have input into how they are run.”
The budget revealed plans to consolidate 61 Medicare Locals into 20 Primary Health Networks nationally.
“It wasn’t a surprise to us, it had been mooted for some time,’’ Mr McPherson said.
“We are very proud of what we are able to achieve.
“It’s disappointing we can’t continue in our current form and we hope there’ll be opportunity for us as an organisation, staff and a community to ensure these valued services continue.”
Health Minister Peter Dutton said while some Medicare Locals had provided good service the government was trying to cut waste on administration.
“A smaller number of Primary Health Networks will replace the Medicare Locals set up by the previous government to ensure health dollars are used more efficiently,” he said.
Mr McPherson said Grampians Medicare Local was an efficient operation.
“When we look at how our money is spent, the vast majority is on service delivery,” he said.