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Thursday, 13 August 2009
Page: 7872


Mr JOHN COBB (4:49 PM) —Kevin Rudd made health a federal issue at the last election. While health services are going from bad to worse under his watch, the Prime Minister is reviewing the latest review. In Cudal about three weeks ago the accident and emergency services were totally taken away. Two five-day-a-week full-time nurse positions have gone and pathology services have been cut back. Cudal needs accident and emergency services particularly when you consider the rescue helicopter covering that area only operates during the day and has no winch, but I shall come to that later. Aged-care beds are also desperately needed in Cudal. There are no aged-care beds, with loved ones making big journeys to other centres to see family members cared for, which is difficult because there is no public transport in most regional areas. Cudal is the same town that was promised a new hospital eight years ago that was never delivered. People were also promised the new hospital would include 24-hour emergency care, GP services and a 10-bed facility for elderly residents. They were not delivered.

In Bathurst, which is also in the Greater Western Area Health Service, the local Western Advocate newspaper this week reported the case of a young mother who was told, because there was no obstetrician available, her caesarean would need to be rescheduled. Apparently the hospital’s permanent anaesthetist and obstetric staff were not available at the time. The paper also highlights the fact that Wattle Flat has no ambulance service. Let us remember this area is also serviced by the same Orange based rescue helicopter which only operates during the day. The Orange helicopter services a far greater area than the Wollongong ones does. It has to go further west than Cobar and it actually has more calls on its time than the one in Wollongong, which is only 12 minutes from Sydney. Wollongong also has a large 24-hour service with a winch.

In Nyngan, where a new multipurpose health service has recently been opened, there is provision for only one doctor to attend the hospital. If that doctor is on leave, there is no medical service. In Cobar, a town of 6,000 people, women cannot give birth to their children locally. It is a town of 6,000 people, 460 kilometres from one major hospital and over 300 kilometres from the other. The maternity section of the hospital has been closed for some time. The continuation of the community being able to say, ‘I was born and bred in Cobar,’ is no more. Mothers now have no choice but to travel 300 kilometres to Dubbo to have their child, if they make it, which some do not. Many do not—luckily the Nevertire publican is married to a very good RN who has had to feature in that service. Bourke is lucky. They have a part-time maternity unit, which is fine if your baby decides to come along when the unit is open. If not, it is a 370-kilometre trek to Dubbo.

Just this week, a public meeting in White Cliffs has told Greater Western Area Health Service they will not stand by and let their services be diminished, which is the intention of GWAHS. This is a community who want to embrace programs for women’s health, mental health, child and adolescent health, obesity and diabetes prevention. It is not just a lack of available professionals affecting rural health; it is the bottom line and the obsession of the New South Wales government with a slash-and-burn mentality to health economics.

The Orange based helicopter rescue covers a vast area of central and western New South Wales. From what I have just said, you will realise how necessary it is—with the state government taking away services from all these regional towns—to have a 24-hour service conducted by the Orange rescue service instead of the eight to six service which it currently has during daylight. Any logically thinking government interested in saving lives would make Orange the biggest and best in the state with a winch and 24-hour service, but not Labor New South Wales. Labor, federally, is sitting on its hands as the Prime Minister will not make good on his commitment in August and November of 2007 prior to the election when he committed that the buck would stop with him on health.