Petition urges rethink on Medicare closure
MEDICARE Riverlink is the latest branch set to close as the Federal Government shuts stand-alone offices and forces customers to face long queues at a "one-stop shop" at Centrelink or go online for service.
Department of Human Services General Manager Hank Jongen yesterday confirmed the Riverlink shopfront would close on November 17 and all eight staff and services would move into the Centrelink building at 78 East Street.
In an unprecedented move, following concerns from customers, Riverlink shopping centre management started a formal petition this week to Federal Parliament to reconsider the closure.
The shopping centre's Facebook page administrator also posted a note on the petition this week, attracting more than 230 supporters and 174 shares.
Riverlink Centre Manager and principal petitioner Jamie Sneyd said the Centrelink building had limited parking and public amenities and elderly customers would have difficulty walking to and from public transport.
Medicare closed at Indooroopilly shopping centre in May and relocated into the Toowong Centrelink office, among more than 150 one-stop-shops that have already opened around the country.
Mr Jongen said customer traffic to the Riverlink Medicare shopfront had dropped by almost 40 per cent during the past two years.
"This coincides with an increase in the number of people taking advantage of alternative ways of doing their Centrelink and Medicare business," Mr Jongen said. "Medicare refunds can be claimed over the phone, online or through the Medicare Express Plus app."
A Community and Public Sector Union spokesman said while the Riverlink closure did not result in immediate job losses, the union's members had broader concerns over the future of Medicare and Centrelink.
"The Department of Human Services has cut more than 4000 jobs in three years, most of them from regional and suburban communities," he said.
"DHS likes to push the internet self-service as an option and it works for many people in the community but it has a duty to ensure that the vulnerable and the aged can still talk to a Medicare or Centrelink staff member about sensitive issues face-to-face rather than deal with a computer screen.
"The department's digital dream is all very well if you don't need to ask any questions."
Riverlink marketing manager Robyn Bannister-Tyrrell said the petition had raised hundreds of signatures each day.
"We want answers," she said. "People deserve to know what is happening and why."
The petition is located outside Zelows at Riverlink.
- More than 85% of patient claims for GP services were lodged electronically at the doctor's practice last year.
- More than 150 combined Medicare-Centrelink offices created since 2009.
- Department of Human Services has cut more than 4000 jobs in three years.