Red tape concerns sour division evolution plan
DIVISIONS of general practice have broadly welcomed the Federal Government’s plan to transform them into Primary Health Care Organisations (PHCOs), despite concerns about capacity and red tape.
Announced as part of the National Health and Hospitals Network plans, PHCOs will become independent bodies responsible for improving the delivery of primary health care services at a local level. Boosting allied health access is flagged as a key part of their role.
PHCOs were a key recommendation of both the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission and the Primary Health Care Strategy External Reference Group.
AGPN chair Dr Emil Djakic commended the decision. “We are delighted that the Government has recognised the value of the network,” he said.
While welcoming the change, Mark Harris, professorof general practice at the University of NSW, said it would require significant changes to divisions’ size and structure and their level of accountability.
“[Their new role] requires reasonably sophisticated planning capacity which some divisions are close to having but others [are not],” he said. “One of the biggest adjustments will be... governance and accountability.”
Such changes, he noted, could create anxiety around dilution of GP input.
Widespread amalgamations among the current 111 divisions are also anticipated. An AGPN blueprint suggests a network of around 60 PHCOs would be appropriate.
The AMA is also concerned PHCOs could mean increased red tape for GPs. “[We] are very concerned that we don’t... put into the GP space a similar kind of problem [to] the hospitals where there was bureaucratic decision-making that influenced clinical behaviour,” vice-president Dr Steve Hambleton said.