NACCHO MEDICARE LOCAL PRESS RELEASE:Recognition of Aboriginal health as ‘core business’ for Medicare Locals.

The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service sector congratulates  Australian Medicare Local Alliance (AML) Alliance Chair, Dr Arn Sprogis, on his clear and unambiguous statements regarding the centrality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health to the current health reform agenda  and for the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health as ‘core business’ for Medicare Locals.

Speaking after attending NAIDOC celebrations  in Hobart, NACCHO chair, Mr Justin Mohammed, said that NAIDOC week reminds us all that much has been gained by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community but there still exists much work to  be done to ensure that the health needs and the health aspirations of Aboriginal peoples are met.

The increase in the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander population, as reflected in the recently release Census data, is a testament to the dynamic nature of our culture, Mr Mohamed said.

 However, since the vast majority of the population growth is due to a healthy increase is the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander birth rate, the data also underlines the need for well-planned and culturally delivered health services that comprehensively address the needs of all members of extended Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander  families, he said.

While NACCHO recognises and encourages people to identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders when engaging with mainstream health services, this will only happen in environments where Aboriginal people feel safe and where their input and their decisions will be respected, Mr Mohamed continued.

While the numbers of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people identifying at mainstream health services continues to grow, there is concern that the uptake of Aboriginal-specific Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) item numbers has shown no significant growth as a result of these increased registrations and remains alarmingly low overall, he said.

It is no longer appropriate to see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health as simply a matter of ‘access’, Mr Mohamed said.

Our people’s health must now be framed around assurances of high-quality and evidence-based services that are firmly grounded within the concept of the social determinants of health and which recognise the influence the social gradient has upon the health status of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people. Health is a human rights issue, not just a medical one, Mr Mohamed pointed out.

Mr Mohamed said NACCHO is the peak body representing almost 150 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) across the country. Our member services have extensive experience and expertise in the design, delivery and evaluation of comprehensive primary healthcare services to Aboriginal  people and the communities where they live; this experience and expertise has been built up over forty years of Aboriginal communities  delivering health services.

Our sector stands ready to work with Medicare Locals in a genuine partnership as they begin their long but ultimately rewarding journey in addressing  and improving comprehensive primary healthcare for all Australians. Working in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration, we can ensure Medicare Locals  bring about the necessary reforms to clinical and support systems within mainstream services that will bring benefits to the entire community, not just to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

These are testing times for all of us involved in health, Mr Mohamed said. With the continued shrinking of already finite health resources, we must ensure that we work in genuine partnership and not in competition: competition will simply weaken us all and bring negative impacts to our respective communities, he said.

 NACCHO and its members look forward to playing a strong role in the new and emerging health environment and to working to ensure that Aboriginal peoples receive the highest-quality health services that are the right of all Australians, Mr Mohamed concluded.

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