Building Healthy Communities : GP Network, Medicare Local and Primary Health Care in the Wheatbelt Region of Western Australia

Schaper, Frank J. & Lim, David (2013) Building Healthy Communities : GP Network, Medicare Local and Primary Health Care in the Wheatbelt Region of Western Australia. Wheatbelt GP Network, Northam, Western Australia.

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• Government reports consistently recognise the importance of Primary Health Care to an efficient health system. Barriers identified in Australia’s Primary Health Care include workforce pressures, increase rate of chronic disease, and equitable access to Primary Health Care services.

• General Practitioners (GPs) are the key to the successful delivery of Primary Health Care especially in rural and remote regions such as the Wheatbelt region in Western Australia (WA).

• The Wheatbelt region of WA is vast: some 72,500 residents spread across 150,000km2 in 43 Local Government Authorities catchments. Majority of the Wheatbelt residents live in small towns. There is a higher reported rates of chronic disease, more at risk of chronic diseases and less utilisation of Primary Health Care services in this region.

• General practice patients in the Wheatbelt are among those most in need of Primary Health Care services.

• Wheatbelt GP Network (the “Network”) was established in 1998. It is a key health service delivery stakeholder in the Wheatbelt.

• The Network has responded to the health needs of the community by creating a mobile Allied Health Team that works closely with GPs and is adaptive to ensure priority needs are met.

• The Medicare Local model introduced by the Australian Government in 2011 aimed to improve the delivery of Primary Health Care services by improved health planning and coordinating service delivery.

• Little if any recognition has been given to the outstanding work that many Divisions of General Practice have done in improving the delivery of Primary Health Care services such as the Network.

• The Network has continued to support GPs and general practices and created a complementary system that integrated general practice with the work of an Allied Health Team. Its program mix is extensive.

• The Network has consistently delivered on-required contract outputs and has a fifteen (15) years history of operating successfully in a large geographical area comprising in the main smaller communities that cannot support the traditional health services model.

• The complexity of supporting International Medical Graduates in the region requires special attention.

• The introduction of the Medicare Local in the South West of WA and their intention to take over the delivery of health services, thus effectively shutting the Network will have catastrophic consequences and cannot be supported economically.

• The Network proposes to create a new model, built on its past work that increases the delivery of Primary Health Care services through its current Allied Health Team.

• The proposal uses the Wheatbelt GP Super Clinic currently under construction in Northam, part of the Network and funded by the Australian Government is a key to the proposed new model.

• Wheatbelt GP Super Clinic is different from existing models of GP Super Clinics around Australia which focus predominately on co-location of services. Wheatbelt GP Super Clinic utilises a hub and spoke model of service outreach to small rural towns to ensure equitable Primary Health Care coverage and continuum of care in a financially responsible and viable manner. In particular, the Wheatbelt GP Super Clinic recognises the importance of Allied Health Professionals and will involve them in a collaborative model with rural general practice.

• The proposed model advocated by the Network aims to substitute the South West WA Medicare Local direct service delivery proposed for the Wheatbelt. The Network’s proposed model is to expand on the current hub and spoke model of Primary Health Care delivery to otherwise small unviable Wheatbelt towns. A flexible and adaptive skill mix of Allied Health Professionals, Nurse Practitioners and GPs ensure equitable access to service. Expanded scope of practices are utilised to reduce duplication of service and concentration of services in major towns. This involves a partnership approach.

• If the proposed model not funded, the Network and the Wheatbelt region will stand to lose 16 Allied Health Professionals and defeats the purpose of Australian Government current funding for the construction of the Wheatbelt GP Super Clinic.

• The Network has considered how its model can best be funded. It proposes a re-allocation of funds made available to the South West WA Medicare Local.

• This submission argues that the proposal for the South West WA Medicare Local to take over the service delivery of Primary Health Care services in the Wheatbelt makes no economic sense when an existing agency (the Network) has the infrastructure in place, is experienced in working in this geographical area that has special needs and is capable to expand its programs to meet demand.

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ID Code: 64789
Item Type: Report
Refereed: No
Keywords: General practice, Funding, Medicare Local
ISSN: 1832 0287
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Primary Health Care (111717)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Clinical Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Nursing
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 Please consult the authors
Deposited On: 25 Nov 2013 23:05
Last Modified: 08 Oct 2016 14:37

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