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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 11986


Mr HARTSUYKER (9:50 PM) —Despite the best efforts of a dedicated staff, the North Coast Area Health Service has been buckling under the strain of inadequate resources for too long. A rapidly-growing population, an ageing population and inadequate resources—it is a formula for failure in a health system. It is beyond belief that the North Coast Area Health Service will cut 400 staff from its workforce in coming months. Where is the spare capacity in the system? Where are the empty beds that are not required? Where are the empty seats in the emergency rooms? The simple reality is that we have a system working beyond breaking point—a system that is about to be further degraded.

In an Orwellian twist, the North Coast Area Health Service is claiming that these cuts will allow them to treat more patients and somehow deliver better services. How do you treat more patients with fewer nurses? It is a simple question. How do you have a cleaner hospital with fewer cleaners? How do you have a better-maintained facility with fewer maintenance staff? It is clear that it is nothing but the spin of the ‘Hollowmen’. Such statements are an insult to the people of the North Coast.

Under the arrangements agreed with COAG, we have the promise of an additional $750 million for emergency departments; $1.1 billion to train more doctors, nurses and other health professionals; $500 million for more sub-acute beds; $448 million for preventative health measures and an additional $806 million for improved Indigenous health outcomes. I would hope that part of this new funding can be used to prevent the loss of 400 jobs which is currently planned by the North Coast Area Health Service. Why should the health service go through the disruption of reducing the workforce with these additional resources in the pipeline? Step 1 in achieving better health outcomes is to stop taking resources away. These job cuts must stop. These services must be improved and not degraded.

On Saturday, we saw rallies held on the North Coast at Coffs Harbour, Grafton and Maclean. Hundreds of people turned out at these hospitals to voice their disapproval at the proposed job cuts—these were local people supporting their local hospitals. It is a shame that the North Coast Area Health Service is not supporting local hospitals. Local people appreciate the hard work of dedicated staff. Apparently, the health service does not. Local people want a quality hospital that is clean and well maintained. That appears not to be a priority for the North Coast Area Health Service.

I would like to commend the hard work of state members Steve Cansdell and Andrew Fraser for holding these rallies and, with the help of the local community, for holding the state government to account for the failures of the North Coast Area Health Service and the failures of the New South Wales health system.

The Prime Minister said that on health the buck stopped with him. The opportunity now exists for the Prime Minister to turn his rhetoric into action by calling on the New South Wales state government to bring to an end the proposal to cut jobs on the North Coast. The people of the North Coast deserve better; all Australians deserve better.

A state government is morally bankrupt as well as politically bankrupt when it attempts to charge patients for life-giving blood. In NSW, that is the depth to which this government has stooped. There is not much lower you can go. Such is the state of affairs in NSW. It is bad enough that our health services have been under resourced for so long but let us not make the situation worse by further job cuts on the North Coast.