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Health merger ‘will work’

Thursday, 17th November, 2011

By Paula Doran



Important Broken Hill health partners will be well represented on the soon-to-be-introduced Far West Medicare Locality (ML), according to its Bourke-based CEO.

Stuart Gordon said that concerns by Broken Hill health professionals that the National Health reforms - specifically the merger of former health divisions into MLs - were expected but unfounded.

The government last week selected the NSW Outback Division of General Practice model for its new funding and organisational structure. 

The Far West ML will stretch from Collarenebri in the north-west of the State to Broken Hill and includes about 40,000 people.  

The structure will be in place from July and will work as a one-stop shop for federal funding allocation and health provision.

Mr Gordon said he was pleased the model put forward by his Bourke health group had been successful rather than a larger “Local” which had included Bathurst and Orange.   

“The reality is we could have been dealing with a population of 330,000 in which we would have had to have co-ordinated across the various needs. Now we have 40,000 in a rural and remote setting that has many unique and specialized needs.”

He said the Far West would be one of 61 MLs in the country and had one of the smallest populations.

“One of the options on offer for Broken Hill was that it continued a closer relationship with Adelaide, but I think by joining forces with other remote towns such as Bourke, we can provide a really unique and cohesive health service.”

Mr Gordon said the first stage of the ML roll out would be to write a new constitution and then start recruiting members.  

“It goes without saying that Broken Hill will play a significant role in this new system. I spent more time in Broken Hill than any other town whilst lobbying for these boundaries, and I got tremendous support.

“But there are steps we need to take before we even get to working out who will be on the board and where the head office will be.

“We’ve also got to break down the professional boundaries and get over the initial prickly issues.

“There’s no doubt we face challenges in establishing this but there is a real opportunity to address the unique problems of remote and rural NSW in a coordinated approach so that there is less duplication of services and greater strategy to promote better allied health, GP support and support for chronic disease for example.”

Mr Gordon said this option for a merger of boundaries between Bourke and Broken Hill was the best option for health reform in the region.  

“The other alternative was for people in an office in Sydney or Canberra to make decisions for us. But we live here, we know what the health challenges are. We know that it doesn’t work if it’s run by people who don’t live and work here.

He said Medicare Locals will work to reduce bureaucratic processes and provide greater access to a more streamlined system with greater co-ordination across services, less duplication and a road map for health improvement.

“The new ML provides the prospect for new partnerships in general practice, Aboriginal health and the wider primary health care networks and we look forward to leading these developments.

“We didn’t ask for this reform, but we’ll certainly do the best with it that we can.”


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