Medicare: We can’t spend money we don’t have

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

 

Sir,– The letter from Dr Craig San Roque (18/7/2014) in relation to mental health services to the Western Desert requires a response. It is inaccurate in relation to circumstances and fact.

I would like to take this opportunity to present the facts.

 

The Northern Territory Medicare Local (NTML) has continued to allocate all available Commonwealth funding for delivery of the Mental Health Services in Rural and Remote Areas (MHSRRA) services in Central Australia. Indeed, we have done so across the whole of the Northern Territory.

 

We were, however, unable to provide the level of funding that the service provider requested this year due to a recent federal funding decision. The Australian Government has advised the NTML of its decision not to approve the usual rollover of MHSRRA program funds. We understand that non-Medicare Local providers of this program have been granted rollover funding for this and other mental health programs.

 

Put simply, we are not able to provide funds that we do not have. Given these funding constraints, the service provider made a business decision to withdraw from providing the service altogether rather than negotiate an option to scale back. This matter was discussed in detail with the service and we accept with regret their business decision.

 

The NTML senior management team and Board are passionate about working to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people. With the withdrawal of the current provider the NTML is now actively negotiating with other service providers to provide this valuable service.

 

Dr Andrew Bell

Chair, Northern Territory Medicare Local

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