Another Coalition Candidate Thumbs Nose at Tony Abbott over Medicare Locals

More cracks have appeared in Coalition ranks over Tony Abbott’s plans to scrap Medicare Locals as the Liberal candidate for Robertson Lucy Wicks today turned up at the opening of a new facility the Coalition wants to close down.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said Ms Wicks attended the opening of Central Coast NSW Medicare Local facility in Erina on Wednesday morning.

She said it was strange that a Coalition candidate would come to the opening of a Medicare Local when Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton had so openly stated their intention to rip them out.

“Lucy Wicks must come clean on her position on the Central Coast NSW Medicare Local. Does she support Tony Abbott’s cuts or does she support health jobs and services in Robertson? She can’t have it both ways.” Ms Plibersek said Peter Dutton is repeatedly on record saying he’d scrap Medicare Locals if the Coalition wins government in September.

On Q&A this week Mr Dutton confirmed Medicare Locals are on the Coalition’s chopping block.

ABC's Q&A website (See mark 32.45)

In March, the Australian newspaper ran a story under the headline “Coalition will abolish? all Medicare Locals,” quoting Mr Dutton.

The Australian, National Affairs website And on the blog Croakey last November Mr Dutton said: “They may be well intentioned, but we can?t afford . . . an estimated 3,000 people employed across Medicare Locals.”

The Crikey Health Blog

Ms Plibersek said Mr Dutton has never denied his plans to sack Medicare Local staff and cut the vital services they provide, ripping more than $1.2 billion out of health services across Australia.

“Medicare Locals are designed to put decisions about health services in the hands of the people who know best – the local community,” Ms Plibersek said.

“They are the next phase of our universal health system, delivering home-grown solutions to local health issues and making it easier for Australians to see a health professional, closer to home.”

Member for Roberston Deborah O’Neill congratulated the Central Coast NSW Medicare Local for funding 15 local groups with $70,000 worth of Community Health Grants to promote preventive health programs on the Central Coast.

"These grants mean our community will benefit from new programs, ranging from healthy breakfasts for disadvantaged young people to running a menopausal lifestyle and exercise program,” Ms O’Neill said.

"The groups will promote a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition, reduce tobacco use, minimise harmful alcohol intake, discourage substance abuse and help reduce the incidence of obesity in the local region.”

She said scrapping the Central Coast NSW Medicare Local would mean sacking 34 frontline stuff including GPs, dietitians, psychologists, mental health nurses and psychologists and means the cutting of services including Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander health, after hours services, allied psychological services and practice support.

“Lucy Wicks is not being fair dinkum with the people of Robertson. If she turns up to the opening of the Medicare Local facility how can she support Tony Abbott’s plan to sack Medicare Local workers and scrap the services they provide.”