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Thursday, 21 October 2010
Page: 1185

Mr BRUCE SCOTT (9:37 AM) —I rise in relation to the downgrading of the Aramac hospital in my electorate of Maranoa. Aramac is a town north of Barcaldine, to which the Labor Party claims a birthright, and it is now in the Barcaldine Regional Council after the forced amalgamation of the wonderful councils out in central-western Queensland. That was forced on them by the Labor Party of Queensland. The amalgamation of the shire councils was bad enough news for this small community but now we have its hospital downgraded from a hospital to a primary healthcare unit. The town was notified on 23 September this year. On 16 October, just a few days ago, they were planning to celebrate the centenary of the hospital in this wonderful community of Aramac. It has been devastating news for this community. I have been to see the Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, and I thank her for seeing me about this issue. What I would like to see and what I know the community would like to see—and I acknowledge that for a number of years we have been unable to attract a doctor to the town—is a model developed under the multipurpose health service criteria. I know that requires a full-time doctor but let us look at a model that would fit Aramac, and I am sure it would fit many other rural communities in the future.

The Prime Minister says in this parliament she is talking about a parliament for regional Australia. Well, here is an opportunity for the Prime Minister and the government to look at how we can deal with some of these very complex and difficult issues, including that it is becoming difficult to attract doctors and professional people. We have lost 12 jobs in this small community. For instance, the police sergeant’s wife was a part-time nurse at the hospital. She has lost her job, as I understand it. There are other people in town who were part-time domestics at the hospital. They have lost their jobs. And so you start to see the slow disintegration of communities unless you put a halt to this economic rationalist approach to providing essential services in some of these communities. The Queensland minister says, ‘Oh, we can transfer these patients by paramedics by ambulance to Barcaldine,’ which is 60-odd kilometres away. Yes, you can. But on three occasions this year Aramac Creek was flooded and you could not get across it.

Here we have a great opportunity—and I welcomed the opportunity to meet with the federal minister last night—to deal with this issue and to try to find a model, other than the economic rationalist model, that would look after the hospital and health needs of the people of Aramac. Let us see to looking after the old people with respite beds in the hospital. Let us not close it. Let us work through this so we can save this hospital for the benefit of this small community. I am not going to give up and I hope I have got the minister onside to work with me to get a solution. (Time expired)