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Estimates: What are the government's plans for Partners in Recovery?

Estimates & Committees
Penny Wright 22 Oct 2014

Partners in Recovery and Medicare Locals

Senator WRIGHT: I have been in other committee, so if I ask questions that have already been asked just let me know. I understand the department has been unable to advise what plans they have for the future of Partners in Recovery contracts where the lead agency is a Medicare Local. I am interested in whether the department can provide any information about what will happen in these instances.

Mr Booth: The Medicare Locals exist until 30 June and then Primary Health Networks take over. There are a number of areas, in terms of transition, in a number of services which come to an end at the end of that particular period or, as in the case of Partners in Recovery, where the contract goes for a further year and lead agencies in that area are Medicare Locals. The answer is that we are working closely with Medicare Locals and Partners in Recovery consortia to look at how we deal with that. Our key aim with Medicare Locals, in working with them over the next six months, is to ensure that service delivery is prioritised and that there is no reduction in service delivery that they need to do. We would certainly make sure that was happening, as far as we could, with Partners in Recovery.

Senator WRIGHT: So at this stage you are working with them closely, but there is no answer for those organisations.

Mr Booth: Not yet. As we are doing with a number of different areas, we are working with the Medicare Locals; we are working with the consortia to work out the transition period.

Senator WRIGHT: When will that information definitely be available?

Mr Booth: We are working to get tender information out, as soon as we can, for the establishment of Primary Health Networks. The work we are doing in Partners in Recovery and a number of other areas is moving alongside that. We are very conscious of the need to do this as quickly as we can, and we are working as fast as we can. I do not have a specific time frame that I can give you for that, but we are working on it.

Senator WRIGHT: It is the Primary Health Networks that will deliver the Partners in Recovery program when the Medicare Locals no longer exist.

Mr Booth: It would depend. There may be a number of different options that might come out of that. Primary Health Networks are intended to be purchasers of services primarily and not providers of services, so we will need to work through with Medicare Locals exactly what happens. We discussed, a few minutes ago, the different permutations that might happen. Some Medicare Locals may bid to become a PHN and continue, in which case there is one conversation there with them as a lead agency. A Medicare Local may bid and not be successful, in which case there is another conversation with the consortia as to what happens to that contract. We need to work through all of these on a case-by-case basis, in terms of Partners in Recovery.

Senator WRIGHT: I will reiterate the concerns raised by my colleague Senator Smith. I am from a fairly large state too, South Australia. I was pretty concerned to see that there are going to be two Primary Health Networks there: one for the Adelaide metro region and one for the rest of South Australia, which is from the APY lands in the north down to Mount Gambier in the south and across. What guarantee is there for clients of Partners in Recovery that they will have continuity of care, notwithstanding these changes?

Mr Booth: To take the first part of your question in terms of South Australia, the answer is very similar to the WA answer. The PHN outside of Adelaide conforms to the country South Australia boundaries. There would be clinical councils and community advisory committees established within South Australia that conform to the boundaries of country South Australia as it operates at the moment. We would anticipate that that would work well and that we could get that work going. In terms of the specifics around Partners in Recovery, I can reiterate what I just said—that we will work with old Partners in Recovery agencies that are affected by the move to primary health networks with the intent of ensuring that nobody falls through the cracks. We are aware of the issue and we are working to do that.

Senator WRIGHT: It is my understanding that the government will defer the establishment of the remaining 13 Partners in Recovery organisations for two years, from 2013-14, saving $53.8 million. Could you confirm that that is the intention and the saving? I also understand that the money will be invested in the medical research fund. Is that correct?

Mr Booth: Yes, that is correct.

Senator WRIGHT: Will the money be invested in mental health research in the medical research fund?

Mr Booth: I do not know the answer to that question, I am sorry. It would be another area of the department.

Senator WRIGHT: Who should I ask about that? I wonder whether Senator Nash could assist with that. Is that a decision that the research fund itself would make or is that a decision that government would make?

Senator Nash: I am not aware of that, but I am happy to take it on notice for you.

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