Speaking at the Australian Medical Association (AMA) conference in Sydney on Friday, opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton said questions remained over the role of Medicare locals, the 61 organisations set up by Labor to co-ordinate primary care.
“Some Medicare locals appear to be doing a good job,” Mr Dutton said.
“But in some cases, health professionals have expressed their frustration, or indeed indifference, to their existence.”
Read NACCHO previous coverage of Medicare Locals
Medicare Locals and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector: Where are we? Where are we going?
Response from AML Alliance CEO Claire Austin is in the comments below
Mr Dutton has previously criticised Medicare Local, labelling it a bureaucracy that has not improved health services.
On Friday, he said he was concerned Medicare Local could act as a commonwealth-subsidised competitor that disrupted other health services, rather than raising the level of care.
“Contracts have been signed secretly, and the government refuses to provide any further detail about 3000 people now employed across the Medicare Local network,” Mr Dutton said.
He said the coalition would consult experts including general practitioners and clinicians in its review.
The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) called on the coalition to reveal its plans for Medicare Local ahead of September’s election.
“Deferring decisions until after the election leaves patients, families, communities and health service providers in limbo,” AHHA chief Prue Power said.
“The health sector is a complicated system and changes in one area can have significant implications for the rest of the system.
“The coalition need to be upfront about their plans for Medicare locals and for primary health care more broadly.
“Health and access to health care services are important issues for all Australians and they have a right to know what is planned before the election so they can make an informed decision on election day.”
AML Alliance, the peak body for Medicare Local, said it would welcome the opportunity to outline to the coalition how Australia’s primary health care system was improving.
“We have a wealth of data available to inform the opposition about the Medicare Local sector and I look forward to the opposition actively seeking this information from us,” AML Alliance chief executive Claire Austin said in a statement.
“Medicare Locals are … ensuring better management of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, smoking cessation programs and asthma, for example.”
Ms Austin said AML Alliance would treat a review as an opportunity “to fill in the information gaps the coalition seems to have about Medicare locals”.