Sun. Jun 16th, 2024

We had to make a very hard decision yesterday to suspend reporting on health reform ‘announcements’.

It was a very hard decision. We know you’re all desperate to hear what is being done.

But we’re doing it to protect you.

Much has been said about Adam Marshall ‘announcing’ that the Single Employer Model was approved for this region when it hasn’t been. While the latecomers to the story seem to think they have discovered some major scandal, that’s exactly how we reported it the day of said announcement. That Marshall had announced it had been approved, but the Federal Health Minister’s office say they’re still waiting for the expression of interest from NSW.

NSW finally got that expression of interest in Friday last week – the very last business day before the NSW government went into caretaker mode. The expressions of interest from the health districts had been secured last November, and Regional Health Minister Bronnie Taylor could have had the EOI in last year, but why do that when you can keep such a juicy issue for the election?

Yesterday we received five emails about health reform in a pretty short window, and it set off our alarm bells.

The first was from the Public Health Network (PHN) confirming Tamworth as a site for the “urgent care” GP centres, an election commitment from Labor made with much fan fare. There has been no site chosen, no date of opening, absolutely nothing has changed – they were just reannouncing it. As we said to the PHN, a reannouncement is not news, it’s spin. And, while structurally the PHNs are independent bodies, the reality is they are a proxy for the government, so one can only assume the timing of the PHN release was politically motivated to combat any suggestion that Labor weren’t delivering on health for our region.

Then we got an email from New England Visions 2030 – the organisation that hosted the GP forum at the Bowling Club a couple of weeks ago – that was a bit misleading about what’s going on. This group doesn’t have an official role in what’s going on so it’s understandable that they may be misinformed by various sources.

Then we received two very similar releases from Adam Marshall and Kevin Anderson saying that the single employer model was being rolled out and the ‘first steps’ had been taken with GP clinics being asked to express interest in participating in the program.

We pretty quickly pushed back to Marshall’s office that a number of the details were wrong. In particular, the Single Employer Model still has not been approved. Our last statement from Butler’s office was two lines long:

The Minister received New South Wales’ EOI on Friday.” 

The Department will now consider their EOI.

The newsletter email Marshall sent out after the press release – email number 5 – and Anderson’s press release added a line about there not being ‘a formal Memorandum of Understanding signed’ but they’re ‘not wasting any time’… (well, y’know, except the five months wasted waiting for NSW to submit the paperwork to the Feds). Like the PHN release, this is spin.

This is the reality:

  • Feds told NSW they could have two more sites (as in local health districts, which in our case would be the Hunter New England Central Coast district) last year.
  • NSW only submitted the paperwork to the feds last week.
  • The single employer model has not been approved for our area.

So the ‘first steps’ in this reform were taken last year, not this week. The thing can’t be rolled out when it hasn’t been approved.

It appears that both sides of politics intend to play stupid political games with our health, and have the bureaucrats delay the paperwork so they can campaign on the issue a bit longer. Meanwhile 6000 people in Armidale – and more across the region – do not have a doctor, those who are lucky enough to be on the books somewhere struggle to get appointments, and emergency patients across the region are being transported by ambulance to the next town’s hospital for basic care.

The New England Times is led by a team of women who all live with chronic illness and disability. One of them was a patient of West Armidale Medical Clinic. So while politicians play games, we know the very real cost of having your health care stuffed around. We know how emotionally draining and physically painful it can be to just need medical care and not be able to get it.

So here’s the deal: we’re not reporting anything from any politician or organisation about any health reform until we have triple verified it.

If you read a story elsewhere about progress in getting us new GPs or progress on the single employer model or whatever it is, and we’re not running it, it’s because we haven’t been able to confirm the story.

Politicians may not respect you or take your health seriously, but we will.