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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
ACTING SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

PRIMARY HEALTH NETWORK DEBACLE

In a massive embarrassment for the Abbott Government, today’s launch of its embattled Primary Health Networks has been derailed by a legal dispute which is preventing the use of the name “Primary Health Networks”.

In a late night email, the Health Department has warned managers they may be sued if they use the phrase “Primary Health Networks” and instead to refer to themselves as PHNs.

“if you choose to use ‘primary health network’ in your name you should seek independent legal advice.

“The Department of Health expects that from 1 July 2015 you will refer to the name of your PHN in any communications as a combination of the geographical location and the term ‘PHN’. “

Health Department email to PHNs, 29 June 2015

The email goes on to warn PHNs they should not purchase any signs, stationery, reports or promotional material until the dispute is resolved.

Correspondence seen by Labor reveals PHNs are even being prevented from setting up websites until the name dispute is resolved.

It’s just the latest chapter in the PHN story that has been marked by broken promises, cost blowouts and chaos.

Despite Tony Abbott’s solemn promise none of them would be closed, the Abbott Government abolished all 61 Medicare Locals run and operated by community not for profit boards, replacing them with a smaller number of Primary Health Networks.

In evidence to Senate Estimates Health Department officials revealed this broken promise had cost taxpayers $112 million to break existing contracts and fund redundancy payments.

Boundaries for the PHNs were then not announced until just before the end of the year, and tenders not awarded until April, leaving the successful bidders just weeks to finalise contracts and begin operations.

A last minute boundary change and contract disputes mean a number of tenders were still being finalised just days before the PHNs were due to start.

Western Australia was left with just three PHNs, including one covering over 99% of the state while just two PHNs cover the entire state of South Australia.

Now, just hours before the Primary Health Networks are due to start, the Health Department is frantically contacting them to warn them to adopt the “KFC solution” and instead refer to themselves only as “PHNs”.

It’s proof, yet again, that Tony Abbot cannot be trusted with health.  Only a Labor Government can be trusted to protect Medicare and look after Australia’s health system.