The Nationals Leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, said the Andrews Labor Government has announced it plans to scrap a grassroots health initiative Daniel Andrews had previously described as a program that does “significant work to help people with chronic illnesses”.
Now Mr Walsh says the Andrews government intends to abolish Victoria’s Primary Care Partnerships (PCPs) after years of uncertainty that hung over the heads of thousands of Victorians involved in the successful health promotion initiative.
Yet, as Health Minister, Andrews claimed PCPs help Victorians avoid hospitalisation “particularly when people and the health agencies can work together on preventative actions and early intervention”.
“The decision to abolish Victoria’s PCPs from April next year comes after funding and service agreements were first set to be cut by the Andrews Labor Government in December 2019, before a ‘stay of execution’ extended the service agreements until June 30 last year,” Mr Walsh said.
“That got a last-gasp funding extension due to their work on COVID-19,” he said.
“PCPs and their 850 partners have been the silent hand that supports the good health and wellbeing of local communities.
“For 21 years they brought together different organisations to co-ordinate crucial programs to improve Victorians’ wellbeing and mental health. Some have taken a leading role in developing cultural awareness training, while others have undertaken in-depth research into depression, anxiety, psychological distress and higher premature mortality rates following the devastating 2009 bushfires.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, PCPs in Gippsland supported the local community access emergency food relief and the Macedon Ranges PCP provided both business support and IT support to connect elderly residents to online COVID-19 information.
“In the south west, the local PCP teamed up with South West Sport, Western Region AFL and Lifeline Direct to deliver online suicide prevention training to key target groups.”
Mr Walsh said Victorian PCPs have done a fantastic job during bushfires, a mental health crisis and COVID-19, and they deserve the respect to secure years of funding, not be subject to more Labor health cuts.
He said with Victorian jobs already lost due to lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions, he hoped the “hundreds of Victorian health workers who have performed a vital health service for more than two decades will be retained in some form to benefit local communities”.
“In some areas of regional Victoria, PCPs provided the only government funded frontline mental health support available to regional Victorians, who have some of the highest suicide rates in the state,” Mr Walsh added.
“With the future of this lifesaving mental health program now in doubt, and the Andrews Labor Government voting against our plan for counsellors to work as mental health practitioners in schools, the devastating effect of the shadow mental health pandemic will only continue to grow.”