Don't axe Medicare Local, urge MPs

Two Illawarra MPs have called on the government to reject any cuts to Medicare Local, ahead of next week's federal budget.

Throsby MP Stephen Jones and Cunningham MP Sharon Bird met Illawarra Shoalhaven Medicare Local chief executive Dianne Kitcher on Wednesday to discuss fears the service, set up under the Rudd government, will be scrapped.

Mr Jones said Illawarra Shoalhaven Medicare Local had an important role co-ordinating health services such as after-hours GP clinics, as well as helping organisations to treat and manage mental health issues and chronic diseases such as diabetes.

He said the community was concerned they would no longer have access to vital services, and that proposed co-payments to visit the doctor would deter vulnerable people from accessing healthcare.

"My big concern is that we will see a reduction in health services here in the Illawarra and more barriers to access," he said.

"If you start putting co-payments in place, people who can't afford it will end up in hospitals or won't get their health conditions dealt with and move from a problem to a crisis."

Ms Bird said the region's diverse population meant a variety of Medicare Local services were crucial to the community.

"The government talks about them as though they're a bunch of bureaucrats, but they're not, they're direct service delivery for really important preventative health initiatives."

Both MPs urged the government to continue funding.


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