The Abbott Government’s refusal to make public the cost of closing all 61 Medicare Locals only highlights its embarrassment at the millions of dollars wasted on this blatant broken promise.
Estimates provided to Labor have suggested the cost for the disastrous process of winding up Medicare Locals could run as high as $200 million.
The Health Department itself has admitted winding up Medicare Locals could cost $112 million.
However, clearly embarrassed at wasting such a massive amount of taxpayers’ dollars on this botched cut to health services, the department has now got cold feet, refusing a Freedom of Information request on the Medicare Locals wind up cost from The Australian.
The Department says it would not be in the public interest to release these figures because it could jeopardise “its good relationship with Medicare Locals”.
This is an absurd excuse as many Medicare Locals were more than happy to publicly declare their wind up costs during hearings last year of the Senate Select Committee on Health.
It’s clear the only thing at risk from publicly revealing this information is Tony Abbott’s credibility after he promised during the last election campaign that not a single Medicare Local would close, then moved to shut all 61 from June 30 this year.
In their place will be just half as many Primary Healthcare Networks with grossly inadequate boundaries that will not meet the health needs of Australians.
There will only be one PHN for all of North Queensland and two for South Australia. The government has decided a single PHN will be adequate for 99 per cent of Western Australia.
Medicare Locals were established to respond to the specific health needs of local communities. With fewer than half the number of their predecessor, PHNs already have twice the challenge ahead of them to achieve this.
Tony Abbott’s broken promise will put extra stress on a health system that already faces $57 billion in cuts to hospitals and a government still committed to a $1.3 billion increase in the cost of medicines and a GP Tax which would rip the heart out of Medicare.
Tony Abbott promised before the last election that not a single Medicare Local would close.
The refusal to make public the cost of winding up Medicare Locals simply highlights the government’s embarrassment at Tony Abbott’s blatant broken promise.