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Wednesday, 19 September 2001
Page: 31048

Mr BARTLETT (7:43 PM) —Over the past few months a large number of Blue Mountains residents have contacted me with their concerns about two of our local hospitals—that is, Springwood Hospital and the Blue Mountains Memorial Hospital at Katoomba. Both are state government public hospitals administered under the Wentworth Area Health Service. They have concerns about each of these hospitals. With the Springwood Hospital, their concerns come from a discussion paper released by Wentworth Area Health Service in April and another one in August this year. Those discussion papers outlined a number of options being considered by Wentworth Area Health Service for the future of Springwood Hospital. The options included the possibility of a rehabilitation hospital, an aged care unit and a palliative care unit—options that included the removal of day surgery procedures that are currently carried out at Springwood Hospital.

These options papers have resulted in a flood of protest from my local community. A petition organised by the Springwood-Winmalee Hospital Auxiliary has gathered over 5,000 signatures and was presented to the Wentworth Area Health Service of the New South Wales government. One of the reasons for the protest is that the community views this hospital, very strongly and quite rightly, as their community hospital. I understand that many years ago much of the money to purchase the land, to build many of the buildings and to support the hospital was raised through community fundraising efforts. Local residents are very anxious and very angry about any propositions that might lead to a reduction of the level or range of services at Springwood Hospital. Simply, local residents do not want to see any downgrading of the range or level of services at Springwood.

The second hospital of concern is Blue Mountains District Anzac Memorial Hospital at Katoomba. For many years, there has been a growing shortage of specialist services at Katoomba hospital, and it has been getting worse. There seems to be a shortage of anaesthetist services in particular, and this seems to be undermining the availability of other surgical services that can be provided there. There was an article in last week's Blue Mountains Gazette outlining problems being experienced by expectant mothers, and many others requiring surgery, needing to transfer to Nepean Hospital because services are not available all the time at Katoomba.

The point is this: the Wentworth Area Health Service of the New South Wales government needs to take far more seriously the public hospital concerns of the Blue Mountains. For Springwood, it needs to look at and respond to the needs and the expressions of concern of the residents of the Blue Mountains, and it needs to accept the fact that the residents do not want to see any removal of day surgery and they do not want to see any downgrading of the range of services at Springwood. For Katoomba, the Wentworth Area Health Service needs to seriously address the problem of the shortage of specialist services, and it particularly needs to provide some incentives to get anaesthetists back to Katoomba hospital to provide the full range of services there.

The problems at Springwood and Katoomba hospitals are reflective of the problems of the New South Wales government generally and its failure to adequately fund public hospital services in New South Wales. The figures speak for themselves. Between 1998 and 2001, Commonwealth government health funding for public hospitals in New South Wales rose from $1,905 million to $2,099 million. That is a 10.2 per cent increase in two years, an increase of $194 million. Over that same two-year period, the New South Wales government's funding for its own hospitals actually decreased, from $2.35 billion to $2.31 billion. That is a decrease of $33 million over two years, a decrease of 1.4 per cent. The fact is that the Commonwealth government is increasing its funding to New South Wales public hospitals while the New South Wales government is decreasing its funding. Add to that the fact that under the GST the New South Wales government is getting far more revenue than it did two or three years ago to fund essential services such as hospitals, and it is redirecting that money away from hospitals. This year the New South Wales government will receive $8.3 billion in revenue from GST. There is simply no excuse for the New South Wales government to be underfunding public hospitals and public health services in New South Wales.

I call on the New South Wales government to lift its game, to increase funding for public health, and particularly to increase funding for the hospitals in the Blue Mountains. (Time expired)