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Wednesday, 13 August 2003
Page: 18471

Mr ENTSCH (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources) (9:43 AM) —I recently wrote a letter to constituents asking for help in appealing to the Queensland Premier to sign the 2003-08 Australian health care agreement. The agreement details are, firstly, that the Australian government is going to contribute some $42,000 million over five years to the states—a record funding level. It is $10,000 million more than the last health care agreement, which was $31.7 billion. Secondly, the new agreement offers Queensland $8 billion over five years—$2,100 million more than the $5.9 billion given in the previous agreement—a significant increase of some 33.4 per cent in nominal growth. If you factor in things like inflation and CPI, you are looking at around 17 per cent growth.

I had an overwhelming response. In the first week I had 2,600 letters returned, and over 4,000 letters were returned in total. There were some horror stories in there. I had a resident from Redlynch who recalled a situation where she had to wait for an on-call theatre to be prepared and staffed to deliver her daughter by emergency caesarean. That bed was not made available, there were delays in the theatre readiness and she had to wait for the best part of a day in Brisbane. Unfortunately, she still could not get a bed. They found one in Townsville and had to fly her to Townsville. They then had to wait for the emergency flight to get her there. With that waiting, the child's condition worsened and eventually the child died. She had a completely healthy pregnancy. You can imagine dismay of the parents.

In another example, a woman said she went in three times from Sunday to Tuesday with labour pains. They never had a bed available, so they gave her pain-killers and sleeping tablets and said that would delay the pregnancy and sent her home. On the Tuesday she was eventually able to find a bed and give birth. In another example, a man had a neighbour who was unable to find a neurosurgeon for several months for an emergency medical condition. Eventually they were forced to relocate to Brisbane where they saw a neurosurgeon in the first week. The comment this man made was:

We may be the Smart State, Sir, but we are being treated like the Dumb North here.

These are the sorts of stories that are being told, and unfortunately criticism from Premier Beattie and Senator McLucas on the other side—it is interesting to note that Senator McLucas, who had every opportunity to oppose this in the Senate back in June, did not raise a peep—smacks of political opportunism. I urge the Premier to get away from the politics and sign the health agreement for the benefit of all Queenslanders. (Time expired)