STAFF at Warrnambool’s Medicare Local office are likely to lose their jobs in the next 12 months as part of a massive Commonwealth shake-up of the service.
Up to 22 people are employed at the Great South Coast Medicare Local (GSCML) at Bayside City Plaza.
There are 61 Medicare Locals around Australia, but under changes announced in the federal budget that number could be reduced to 16.
Medicare Locals have a broad role to support hospitals and health clinics by solving health issues specific to their regions.
GSCML chief executive Glenda Stanislaw told The Standard programs with state funding would continue, while others funded by Canberra would be passed on to the new national health networks — although it is not clear what shape the new networks will take.
“From our perspective most of our work will continue,” Ms Stanislaw said.
“The biggest concern for me is that in all these changes our staff will now have to worry about their jobs. We have 22 staff who are under threat.”
GSCML covers the south-west, including Warrnambool, Moyne, Glenelg, Corangamite and Southern Grampians.
Ms Stanislaw warned rural health would suffer if all of Western Victoria came under a new agency based in Geelong.
“We know what happens when things come out of Geelong — the rural focus is lost,” she said.
“Often we’ll get programs that are appropriate for metropolitan areas but would be totally unworkable in places like Heywood or Cobden.”
Ms Stanislaw said GSCML had successfully increased the infant immunisation rate in the region to one of the best in the country and had pushed a 20 per cent increase in the number of GP clinics open after hours.
Staff are now working on plans to train seven GPs, nurses and aboriginal health workers to deal with rising crystal methamphetamine (‘ice’) problems.
They also have worked on smaller initiatives like tackling poor diet in truck drivers, methadone programs and providing mental health funding in towns such as Heywood.