ADF – 24 March 2011

“Confirmation by Prime Minister Gillard that Medicare Locals will become fund holding organisations should be a warning to doctors to avoid involvement”, Dr Stan Doumani, general practitioner and spokesman for the Australian Doctors’ Fund said in Canberra today.

The Prime Minister has stated publicly, “I also want to make sure Medicare Locals over time become fund holding organisations so they’ve got the ability to get service gaps in the local community filled, so if there isn’t enough of a particular service available Medicare Locals can make a difference to that”.

“Contrary to popular perception, fund holding is a disguised form of rationing health care”, Dr Doumani said. When the funds run out, or they are not sufficient to meet growing demand then we start to see waiting lists for treatment and frustrated patients. This will become more acute if patients are directed away from local hospitals to a nonexistent or insufficient fund which is supposed to provide for their care.

There is the very important question of what happens when a Medicare Local in Town A runs out of funds. Does the patient then move to the Medicare Local in Town B?

The failure of the government’s Diabetes fund holding “reform” is a bad omen for Medicare Locals as fund holders, Dr Doumani said.

“Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath to give care, notration it. I could not advise any of my colleagues to become involved in fund holding. We were promised a universal health care system and as far as I understand, we are still being promised a universal health care system. However, now it appears that there is a real danger that the blight of public hospital waiting lists will be visited onto general practice,” Dr Doumani said.

Qld GP, Dr Shaun Rudd said there were major issues with the relationship that Medicare Locals would have with GP SuperClinics. Are we likely to see the majority of funds being directed to programs implemented by GP SuperClinics to the detriment of patients who choose not to use these clinics?

“General practice does not need any more big brothers managing our colleagues who are doing their best to look after patients. We do not need any more forms to fill out or emails to answer. General practice is not broken or fragmented. Our work, supplemented by community nurses working with chronically ill patients, is delivering first class primary health care, but this does not need a Medicare Local with a board and a bureaucracy”, Dr Rudd said.