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No medicare offices will be closed in rural Australia



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The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade

MEDIA RELEASE

MW 43/97 9 May 1997

■TOTNT STATEMENT WITH THE MINISTER FOR HEALTH ANDFAMDLY SERVICES ) DRM ICHAEL WOOLDRIDGE

NO MEDICARE OFFICES WILL BE CLOSED IN RURAL AUSTRALIA

The Government today announced that all Medicare offices in rural Australia will be kept open and that the reduction in the branch network in order to finance Medicare claiming through local pharmacies will be absorbed in metropolitan and other built-up areas.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Leader o f the National Party, Mr Tim Fischer, and the Minister for Health and Family Services, Dr Michael Wooldridge, said that the decision to quarantine country offices from closure was in response to well-argued submissions from Government backbenchers representing regional and remote electorates.

“The strong representations by the Government's rural MPs and Senators to retain the existing Medicare offices in rural communities were compelling and well argued,” M r Fischer and Dr Wooldridge said.

“Cabinet has reconsidered the original proposal and decided not to close any Medicare office in rural Australia, although there will be some reduction in the branch network in some metropolitan, suburban and other built-up areas.

“The Government understands how important Medicare offices are in rural communities, especially in terms o f local jobs. Cabinet accepted that the inconvenience for people in rural communities would be much greater than in metropolitan areas because of the larger distances between many country towns,” the Ministers said.

Closures which are necessary as part o f the branch network rationalisation will be limited to metropolitan and other built-up areas where, in most cases, another Medicare office is less than 10 km away. Significantly fewer offices will be closed than originally considered necessary. The offices affected will be announced early next week.

“This decision represents a transfer of resources from metropolitan to rural areas in order to fund the establishment o f pharmacy claiming facilities, which will dramatically widen access to the Medicare processing system for families living in rural communities,” Mr Fischer and Dr Wooldridge said. ’

Contact: David Kelly, Deputy Prime Minister's office, (06) 277 7420 Bill Royce, Dr Wooldridge's office, (06) 277 7220

Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600 Tel (06) 277 7420 Fax (06) 273 4128