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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 7183


Mr COULTON (11:35 AM) —The Private Health Insurance Legislation Amendment Bill 2009 breaks an emphatic promise which was made at the time of the election but which was shattered in the budget—the plan to dismantle the 30 per cent rebate on private health insurance premiums. There are 43,170 people in the Parkes electorate who are covered by private health insurance. The government’s move away from private health insurance to encouraging more people into Medicare and onto the public hospital lists will have a negative effect on the people in my electorate. It is five days now until the date on which the Prime Minister promised that he would have fixed up the health system in Australia. He said on the issue of health, ‘The buck stops with me.’ The people in my electorate are waiting to see what is going to happen in the next five days to change that.

The health system in western New South Wales is at a very critical level. The issues with Dubbo Base Hospital have been well documented over the last 12 months. To be honest, it is the dedication of the medical staff and the medical professions in western New South Wales who are keeping it all together. As a nation we need to look at how we are going to manage and fund health in the future because, quite frankly, it is the largest issue that my electorate is dealing with at the moment. I find it quite amazing that none of the money in the stimulus package went into the health system to overcome a lot of the service problems that we have at the moment. I will not dwell on this today, but in conclusion I would like to say that the health service and the people in western New South Wales, including in the Parkes electorate, are waiting for a change in the health service. They are looking for some leadership in this.

On indulgence, I would like to highlight something that has happened this week. I do not intend to make a political point but I would like to seek indulgence to mention this in the House. On Monday afternoon, a Sri Lankan born paediatric registrar Dr Ruban Arumugam was tragically killed on the Castlereagh Highway near Mudgee in New South Wales. Ruban, as he was known to his colleagues, came to Australia in the early nineties, was educated at the University of New South Wales and has been working in Dubbo, in western New South Wales as a paediatric registrar. He had had a very busy weekend. He was actively involved in saving the life of a child that was born 13 weeks premature. It was particularly difficult because, due to the inclement weather, the aerial retrieval services that normally provide backup could not go to Dubbo. Dr Arumugam had a very torrid time saving that child. Also, on the weekend he dealt with a young child that had been diagnosed as having leukaemia.

After a busy week of shifts at Dubbo Base Hospital Ruban was heading home to his wife who lives in Western Sydney when he was, unfortunately, killed in a car accident. I would like to place on record here my condolences to Ruban’s family, to his colleagues at Dubbo Base Hospital—I know they are mourning at the moment—and to his mother and father, who at the moment are working through Immigration to try and get temporary visas to be here for his funeral. We are having a few problems with that but I am assured that Senator Evans’s office is working very hard to overcome them.

In closing, I would like to acknowledge the contribution that Dr Arumugam made to the people of western New South Wales. I would like to acknowledge my sadness for his wife and his parents, and his brother who lives, I think, in America. His death highlights the dedication and the extreme pressure that people who work in health in western New South Wales are under. I know he will be sadly missed.