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Labor announces funding for chemotherapy and MRI in Cairns; nursing.



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Nicola Roxon MP Shadow Minister for Health Jim Turnour Candidate for Leichhardt

MEDIA COMMENT

Cairns Base Hospital, 14 September 2007 E&OE

Subject: Labor announces funding for chemotherapy and MRI in Cairns; nursing

ROXON: I’m here in Cairns today with Jim Turnour, Labor’s candidate for Leichhardt, to make a significant announcement concerning Cairns Base Hospital.

We’re committing $8 million to funding an MRI machine - both the capital and the Medicare licence - to make sure that people who are treated at the hospital can have access to this top quality service.

It’s ridiculous that patients are being sent to Brisbane and Townsville for diagnostic services that should be available in hospitals servicing communities of this size.

Jim Turnour, as Labor’s candidate, and Desley Boyle, the state member, have been campaigning heavily on this issue. It’s very important that this infrastructure is available so that the hospital can provide the critical services with up to date technology.

Part of this commitment is also a $500,000 commitment to fund a chemotherapy mixer. This is to supplement the funds that have been raised by COUCH and the Hospital Foundation, who have been actively campaigning in the community and have been able to raise a significant amount of money.

I know that Jim Turnour and Desley Boyle have also been campaigning on this, and we want to pay tribute to community organisations that can see a need and then take action to raise funds. Labor supports local initiatives and local solutions.

A Federal Labor Government will provide the necessary extra funds to make this available in Cairns Hospital.

Can I just also make a quick few comments about the nursing issue which is in the media today.

Labor of course is very committed to supporting and increasing the number of nurses that are in our health system. They are the largest group of health professionals in the community and they play a vital role in running our hospitals, our aged care services, and many other community facilities.

We are interested in anything that will support nurses and ensure we have the necessary nursing staff that is required.

For 11 years the Howard Government has ignored warnings of extreme workforce shortages in nursing and only now, in the shadow of an election, are they making this announcement.

The issue is important but we fear the solution has been cobbled together at the last minute. It’s apparent there hasn’t been any consultation at all with professionals in the health sector.

The Government has had 11 years to take action on workforce issues and hasn’t. They are only acting now because Labor is taking the lead on health.

Federal Labor has announced a $2 billion Health and Hospitals Reform Plan for the nation. In Question Time yesterday, Mr Howard couldn’t answer a single question about his future plan for hospitals.

Today he has a plan that seems to have just dropped from the sky, because he was caught flatfooted by Labor’s initiatives.

Supporting nurses and workforce planning is vital - but I hope this initiative doesn’t follow the pattern of Mr Howard’s technical colleges: announced in fanfare at the last election but still with not a single graduate to show for it.

TURNOUR: I am very excited that Nicola has come to Cairns today to make this announcement. It is a significant commitment from Federal Labor for Cairns Base Hospital and for the Cairns community more generally.

I have been harassing Nicola about the need for an MRI in Cairns for many months and I’m delighted that Federal Labor has recognised the health needs of the Cairns community with this announcement.

I am also very pleased that the efforts of COUCH have been recognised with the matching funding commitment of the chemo mixer.

These two commitments will make a very real difference not only to patients but also to families who will no longer be required to travel such long distances for treatment.