Health cuts would hurt

OUR public hospitals are at risk of being over burdened if the federal government axes Medicare Locals from its budget next month, said Rene Pennock, chief executive of the South West Sydney Medicare Local.

Mr Pennock said reports last week that 61 Medicare Locals would be scrapped were speculative, but key local health services would be lost if the government shut down the system.

The Campbelltown-based South West Sydney Medicare Local, which covers Fairfield, employs about 80 local people and delivers health services like after-hours GP services, mental health services, diabetes education and programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

"All Medicare Locals, us included, have a contract to deliver health services until June, 2016, so at this stage our approach is business as usual," he said.

"We've delivered 100,000 clinical services since we started operating 20 months ago. What would happen if these services were no longer delivered? It would mean that people would be forced to go to the public health system for help.

"Our brief is to keep people well and out of the public health system."

Mr Pennock said the key focus for South West Sydney Medicare Local was tackling mental health, obesity and health problems for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

"When it comes to mental health, we have about 80 psychologists that GPs refer people to if they have mild mental health conditions and they receive six free therapy sessions," he said.

"If Medicare Local was no longer, these people could experience acute exacerbations of their conditions."

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