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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 745

Mr HUSIC (10:57 AM) —An important feature of the health reforms secured by this federal government was the creation of local health networks, which are made up of small groups of hospitals working together to provide a range of hospital services and manage their own budgets. They will be run locally, funded nationally and accountable for performance against national standards.

The electorate of Chifley will be served by the Western Sydney Local Health Network, chaired by Professor Stephen Leeder. Its CEO is Danny O’Connor. I look forward to meeting with these gentlemen in the near future to discuss the network’s strategic plans for the years ahead. I am particularly keen to talk with them both about how they plan to ensure that local residents in Chifley can access great support in the treatment of cancer, or to help parents who have problems obtaining affordable and timely assistance with early childhood speech pathology. The board is made up of a mix of medical and community representatives—and I wanted to congratulate the appointment of Deputy Mayor of Blacktown City Council, Councillor Kathleen Collins. I also note that the board is served well by the presence of Professor Peter Zelas, who has been associated with local health care for 30 years.

Five hospitals will fall under the watch of this network: Auburn, Blacktown, Cumberland, Mount Druitt and Westmead. Mount Druitt and Blacktown hospitals operate as if they were one, but with different campuses. They also maintain different specialties, with Mount Druitt focused largely on elective surgery. While welcoming the creation of the local health network, because it provides a greater focus for the direction of resources and an opportunity for more attention on local communities, I have reservations about Westmead Hospital’s inclusion in the network. Westmead is a healthcare flagship within the Western Sydney region, without doubt. However, I am concerned its sheer size would see it dominate decisions about staffing and resource allocation—to the detriment of Mount Druitt and Blacktown hospitals. Additionally, the demographics of our area will fundamentally change over time, with greenfields residential development swelling the numbers of people living in Chifley and Greenway. This contrasts with the urban consolidation that largely surrounds Westmead.

Both I and my colleague the member for Greenway, Michelle Rowland, were able to directly raise these matters with Minister Roxon. Our state colleague, the member for Mount Druitt, the Hon. Richard Amery, who shares these concerns, pursued the matter with New South Wales health minister, Carmel Tebbutt. I am pleased to say that a number of commitments have been provided to us to ensure that both Mount Druitt and Blacktown hospitals have critical input and security in the setting of their budgets and plans. In particular, I note the government has given special recognition for Blacktown and Mount Druitt hospitals. They will be established as a distinct sector within the network, they will have their own service agreement with government to ensure that local services have even stronger protection and they will have a protected budget as well as additional control over hospital resourcing and accountability.

It is certainly my firm intention to closely follow the reporting of the network’s results, keeping a close eye on the operation of these special arrangements. I hope that for future years we could work towards a standalone network, maintaining a focus on meeting the needs of residents within Chifley and Greenway. Again, I welcome the establishment of the Western Sydney Local Health Network and look forward to working with the network for the common good of the residents of Chifley.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper)—Order! In accordance with standing order 193 the time for constituency statements has concluded.