Community-Owned Primary Health Enterprise (COPHE) is an expert and experienced team working to grow community influence in primary health care, especially by owning and running services to meet the needs of their community.
In particular, we believe that some communities would receive better primary health care, more attuned to their specific needs and circumstances, if such services were actually owned or run by those communities or by the not-for-profit non-government organisations (NGOs) that work closely with them.
There are many opportunities for existing community services, or non-medical community based health services, to augment their services by adding primary health staff including GPs to provide an integrated service, based on multidisciplinary care and a social model of health.
We believe that growing this community-owned sector is one way to counter the increasing corporatisation of primary health care. COPHE is currently distributing articles and running workshops on this idea, and is interested in working with others on specific proposals.
COPHE is also interested in assisting primary health care services, including medical practices, to better understand their practice and sustainability. Our work assists services by analysing both the financials of the practice but also the use of Medicare (MBS) items by each practitioner against benchmarks.
THE COPHE IDEA
There is evidence that many groups within the community do not have adequate access to primary healthcare services. These include some geographical communities with low numbers of GPs as well as some population groups who find it hard to get the kind of care they need. COPHE aims to increase the access of affordable and appropriate primary health care to poorly-served communities or client groups by supporting local community groups or non-government organisations to develop such services.
The primary health care sector is changing. GP practices are getting larger and fewer, with an increasing number owned by for-profit corporations. The breadth of primary health care professionals is growing too and multidisciplinary care is emerging. However there are relatively few primary health care health services owned and run by communities or NGOs. We want to see an increase in the number of services where communities have any real say over their health care.
The Victorian community health sector have always had strong community representation on their boards and are now companies limited by guarantee. There are also a number of other models operating successfully in some localities throughout Australia.
The community health sector is strong in Victoria, and there are other models operating successfully around Australia. There are also many excellent individual GPs and health professionals. Despite this the primary health care sector is relatively fragmented and COPHE is working towards more consumer-centred multidisciplinary and integrated primary health care in an era of an ageing population and increasing levels of chronic disease.