FEDERAL Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce said patients in the New England Electorate are set to receive better access to frontline health services, with the announcements of who will be running new Primary Health Networks locally.
New England Medicare Local along with Hunter and Central Coast Medicare Local has been awarded the contracts to run the combined Hunter New England & Central Coast Primary Health Network.
Primary Health Networks – or PHNs - are part of the Abbott Government’s plans to improve the health of the nation and will replace Medicare Locals from July 1.
“The Abbott Government wants to ensure the people of the New England Electorate are able to access the right care, in the right place, at the right time and Primary Health Care networks form a core part of our plan,” Mr Joyce said.
Mr Joyce said the decision to appoint New England Medicare Local as a contractor for the new Primary Health Network was the second of two major issues resolved for the Electorate in the past fortnight.
“The first was the announcement that BEST Employment, Jobs Australia and Joblink Plus would play an increased role in the Electorate with the proposed jobactive network,” he said.
Mr Joyce said many concerns were raised by New England Medicare Local staff prior to the Primary Health Network announcement.
“But we have managed to see New England Medicare Local as one of the contracted agencies that will be the foundation of the Primary Health Network.
“As always I am reticent to making promises, but I was very alive to the issue and worked hard to achieve the result we have got,” he said.
“The key difference between Primary Health Networks and Medicare Locals is that PHNs will focus on improving access to frontline services, not backroom bureaucracy as we saw under Labor.
“This is backed by the fact PHNs will deliver improved access to primary care services for local patients, as well as better co-ordination with local hospitals, while at the same time improving the overall operational efficiency of the network by 30 per cent.
“There’s no doubting that, individually, there were some high-quality Medicare locals across the country, however there were also plenty that haven’t lived up to Labor’s promise.”
The nation’s 31 new Primary Health Networks will better align with state Local Hospital Networks.
Mr Joyce said PHNs would work directly with GPs, other primary health care providers, secondary care providers, hospitals and the broader community to ensure improved outcomes for patients.
“In addition to general health, the Abbott Government had also set PHNs six key priorities for targeted work in mental health, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, population health, health workforce, eHealth and aged care,” Mr Joyce said.
New England Medicare Local Chair, Dr David Briggs said his organisation was delighted to receive the news and learn it had been selected to join with the two other Medicare Local groups to form the new PHN.
“We look forward to working with them to establish the new organisation and ensure the delivery of high quality health care,” Dr Briggs said.
“I would like to thank Barnaby Joyce for his assistance and advice through the process,” he said.
“The New England Medicare Local Board is looking to establish a service provider to make sure there will be continuity of service by New England Medicare Local.”
Mr Joyce said the Abbott Government had also added additional checks and balances via the creation of PHN Community Advisory Committees, which will ensure all patients and local communities can provide feedback to, and have direct input into, the PHN to ensure they deliver the localised health care requirements that were unique to their region.
PHNs were selected following a thorough tender process run at arm’s length by the Department of Health.