The Alliance has been closely monitoring and providing input into the transition from Medicare Locals (MLs) to the new Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to ensure that they work well in rural and remote areas.
The Federal Government has announced the entities that will operate the 31 PHNs.
There are 31 PHNs nationally, with 10 in NSW, 7 in Queensland, 6 in Victoria, 3 in WA, 2 in SA, and 1 in Tasmania, the NT and the ACT . PHNs will begin operations from 1 July 2015. A map of the boundaries for the PHNs can be found on the Department of Health website.
Primary Health Networks must be local and multidisciplinary and adhere to four principles in their governance and function to be successful in rural and remote communities. PHNs must be: tailored to regional circumstances by involving people with well-grounded experience of the challenges facing local communities; strongly multi-professional; culturally and attitudinally equipped to work in close partnership with local rural/remote organisations; and have the contacts, will and capacity to collaborate effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their community controlled health services.
The Alliance submission to the Review of After Hours Primary Care Services also highlights the importance of local knowledge, multi-professional involvement and collaboration with local health service providers in rural and remote communities.
As part of the Department’s consultation with peak health organisations about the transition, the Alliance met with Mark Booth, Head of the Primary and Mental Health Care Division. We provided input on what the changes might mean for people living in rural and remote areas based on the issues raised and the feedback we have received to the NRHA Discussion Paper, Ensuring that new Primary Health Networks will work well in rural and remote areas.
The Paper outlines how rural PHNs might differ from their urban counterparts; what challenges they might encounter in the design, implementation and evaluation of programs across larger regions, and the importance of a fair and efficient tendering process in which the allocation of resources truly reflects need. Comments on the Paper are welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org
The establishment of a smaller number of PHNs in place of the 61 MLs currently in operation was one of a number of recommendations put forth by former Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, John Horvath, in his Review of Medicare Locals, which was commissioned by the Federal Government in December 2013.
The Alliance made a submission to the Review, supporting the view that local communities and clinicians should have a genuine say in the management of their health care so that services can be responsive to local needs. It acknowledged the need for a nationwide network of regional primary care organisations arguing that, if properly supported and resourced, they will have a number of benefits for people in rural and remote areas, including a simpler and safer patient journey.
The Federal Government announced its acceptance of Horvath's recommendations in the 2014 Federal Budget, signalling the cessation of Commonwealth funding to MLs effective 30 June 2015 and the commencement of operation of PHNs from 1 July 2015.