Majority of PHNs are rebadged Medicare Locals
The vast majority of the successful bidders for the 31 new Primary Health Networks (PHNs) are either consortia of former Medicare Locals or have a Medicare Local as the lead applicant.
Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley announced the names of the winning bidders for the PHNs on Saturday, saying they would replace “Labor's flawed Medicare Local system”.
However, of the 28 successful applicants, at least 24 are consortia led by a prominent Medicare Local. For example, the Brisbane North PHN will be run by Partners 4 Health Ltd, the trading name of Metro North Brisbane Medicare Local.
The winning bidder for the Central and Eastern Sydney PHN is EIS Health Limited, a consortium of Eastern Sydney, Inner West Sydney and South Eastern Sydney Medicare Locals.
And the winning bidder for the South Eastern NSW PHN is Coordinare Limited, with the lead agency named as Grand Pacific Health – the trading name of Illawarra Shoalhaven Medicare Local.
In WA, an alliance of Perth Central and East Metro ML, Goldfields-Midwest ML, Perth South Coastal ML and Fremantle ML - collectively now known as the WA Primary Health Alliance - has won the bid to run all three WA PHNs, including the vast Country WA PHN, which takes in the whole state except for metropolitan Perth.
The WA Primary Health Alliance has the endorsement of health insurers Bupa and HCF, as does the Brisbane North PHN, although contrary to many fears it does not appear that insurance companies have a lead role in any of the PHNs.
In Queensland, several PHNs have been won by local Hospital and Health Services rather than MLs, including Northern and Western Queensland PHNs.As expected, the ACT, Tasmania and Northern Territory Medicare Locals will simply have a name change to PHN.
Ms Ley said in a statement that the new PHNs would be 'outcome focused' on improving frontline services, and would align with state Local Hospital Networks to ensure better integration between primary and acute care services.
She said the key difference between Primary Health Networks and Medicare Locals is that PHNs will focus on improving access to frontline services. (MLs in contrast provided some frontline services of their own.)
“This is backed by the fact PHNs will deliver improved access to primary care services for 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.”
The government has set six key priorities for targeted work for the PHNs in addition to general health: mental health, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, population health, health workforce, aged care and eHealth.
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