30/03/2016 - 16:43

No boundaries for new health charities

30/03/2016 - 16:43

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As the politics washes through changes to the healthcare sector, charitable providers have restructured to remain relevant.

CHANGE: The introduction of PHNs to WA last year has prompted a significant shift in the charitable healthcare sector. Photo: iStockphoto/SilviaJansen

As the politics washes through changes to the healthcare sector, charitable providers have restructured to remain relevant.

CHANGES in the government-funded healthcare sector have led to upheaval in the charitable sector focused on this field, with several new or significantly rebranded organisations emerging as a result.

A year ago, the Liberal federal government did away with Labor’s Medicare Locals system, which had been introduced in several tranches between 2011 and 2012 and replaced the 61 regions with 31 new Primary Health Networks.

The objectives – to identify the health needs of their communities and to develop or commission locally responsive services to meet them – were similar and many of the organisations delivering these services are little more than rebranded versions of their former selves.

Typically, the services delivered augment the usual medical services provided by general practitioners. Mental health, disability support, aged care and indigenous health are among the broad range of services these organisations provide.

The organisations involved are generally charitable groups, often originally created for the Divisions of General Practice Program system, which was the precursor to Labor’s Medicare Locals.

In Western Australia, last year’s introduction of PNHs prompted a significant shift, whereby some of the key players in several former Medicare Locals operations created a new grouping, WA Primary Health Alliance, which won the contract for all three of the new areas created for WA – Perth North, Perth South and Country WA.

WAPHA’s inaugural board includes former directors of various Medicare Locals: Western Australian Association for Mental Health chief executive officer Rod Astbury; HealthEngine founder Marcus Tan; GP Damian Zilm; and former St John of God Health Care executive Anne Russell-Brown.

Among the other changes, one of the biggest former Medicare Locals provider Perth Central and East Metro Medicare Local, which had revenue of $18.1 million in the year ending June 30 2015, was wound up after it disposed of its business to Perth South Coastal Medicare Local ($9.2 million in revenue); which then rebranded as 360 Health & Community. According to the BNiQ search engine, this combination represents WA’s 13th biggest charitable organisation by revenue.

Similarly, Black Swan Health was created in July 2015, rebranding the operations of the 22-year-old Panorama Health Network ($18.9 million), which was wound up.

Other examples of these changes are Fremantle Medicare Local, which changed its name to One Healthy Community ($10.2 million), and the former Canning Division of General Practice, which became Arche Health, acquiring the business of Bentley-Armadale Medicare Local ($12.4 million).

Some people involved have been critical of resources required to effectively restart the process started by Labor under a different name.

“If you think that time and energy had gone into medical services, we could have cured cancer by now,” said one player.

Another agreed a lot of politics and legacy programs were still washing through the system at a cost, but was adamant the new system removed much of the conflict inherent in Medicare Locals, where some organisations were both providers and payees.

It was also suggested that WA would uniquely benefit from having one group with the head contracts for all WA regions, representing about $30 million in core funding, removing much of the geographic boundary challenges evident in the previous system.

Focus on head injury danger
A STATE government-funded video campaign to be screened during the winter sports season aims to educate people about the dangers of concussion in sport.

Launched during Brain Awareness Week (March 14-20), the video features a young player receiving a knock during a local junior football game and the coach taking him off the field.

The video was made by Sports Medicine Australia (WA branch) as part of a wider ‘Concussion in Sport’ project, which is funded by state government grants through the Department of Sport and Recreation. The video will be screened on Channel 7 and social media throughout the season.

ATCO cooks up Baptistcare deal

GAS distribution company ATCO Gas Australia and charitable organisation Baptistcare have completed a partnership to deliver a life skills program to support people living with disabilities.

The innovative ‘Ingredients Project’ combined culinary skills and gas safety lessons, using facilities at ATCO’s Blue Flame Kitchen in Jandakot. Natural gas knowledge and cooking knowhow were intertwined with other important skills to help participants pursue future employment.

ATCO also provided funds to purchase produce, while a dedicated team of chefs and supported workers from Baptistcare guided and supported participants in the hands-on program that ran over several months.

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