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Tuesday, 27 February 2018
Page: 2148

Dr FREELANDER (Macarthur) (16:00): I rise today to speak about the shameful closure of an essential after-hours general practice service located at Campbelltown Hospital, within my electorate of Macarthur, and a similar closure in the neighbouring electorate of Werriwa at Liverpool Hospital. The member for Dawson, of course, well knows the importance of medical services at our local hospitals after hours. Most of my constituents would be aware of this decision. However, I thought it prudent to inform the Chamber of this extraordinary development. Upon being informed of the impending closure, the member for Werriwa and I have been working hard to put a stop to the closure of the services at both Campbelltown and Liverpool hospitals and also to ascertain the cause of such an ill-conceived and unnecessary cut to essential services.

These after-hours general practice centres provide a vital service to my constituents and to those of my colleague in ensuring equitable access to health services after hours and on weekends. Having been a paediatrician in the area for decades, and working directly out of the hospital, I can attest to the vital function that the service plays. Countless former patients of mine would make use of the after-hours clinic, and benefit from the necessary services it provides. Given the rapid growth we're seeing in the population of south-west Sydney—rapid growth, I might add, without appropriate infrastructure—it's essential that we continue to improve on our health infrastructure and to improve the provision of services. Taking away a strategically located after-hours GP service is complete folly. It will only put further strain on my constituents and our already overstretched hospital and staff. To me and many of my colleagues within the health sector, the removal of this service is completely senseless. There's no benefit in closing this clinic or moving it elsewhere, and the cost in terms of the added strain this will put on our hospital is immeasurable.

As I stated previously, the member for Werriwa and I have been trying to get to the bottom of this ridiculous move, as have our colleagues in the New South Wales parliament. I even spoke directly to the New South Wales health minister, Mr Brad Hazzard, who was very receptive to my concerns and was open to my feedback. However, ultimately he and his ministry were unable to intervene in the matter, due to an issue of federal funding. Despite our differences in policies, I appreciate the minister's willingness to discuss the matter and his understanding of the issues involved. I, along with my Labor colleagues, will continue to fight against this change and attempt to inform those involved in making this decision of the disastrous outcomes that this closure will lead to. It will lead to further backlogs in our emergency departments, it will lead to a lack of proper training for our medical students at the hospital and the general practice in the community and it will lead to a lack of contact with our local hospital. It's very poor in terms of health management. It's very poor in the removal of services. It's very bad politics. I really condemn the move.