House debates

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Statements by Members

Paterson Electorate: Health Services

9:45 am

Photo of Bob BaldwinBob Baldwin (Paterson, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources) Share this | | Hansard source

Forster-Tuncurry is a community in my electorate that is without a public hospital. So dire is the situation that years ago the community set about raising money to build a hospital, and build a hospital they did. The state government refused to lease that hospital to provide services to the people of Forster-Tuncurry. They were forced to put it out to a private contractor. So what we have is a hospital built and funded by the community and run by a private interest. They do an outstanding job. Karen Devenish, the CEO, does a tremendous job. On 3 September it was great to announce an after-hours GP service that will be established at that hospital. This program provides funding of $600,000 over three years and will provide great community benefit, particularly during the holiday season, when the town grows.

For a number of years I have been lobbying New England Health—now Hunter New England Health—in particular, their CEO, Terry Clout. I had meetings with him on 9 July 2004, 20 September 2005 and finally on 13 July this year, which was when he let me know that, after all the lobbying by the community and me, 20 beds would be leased to this hospital for the provision of services to the public. That was reinforced on 3 September in a telephone call from the Acting CEO, Nigel Lyons, who stated that those beds would be available. There is a sting in the tail for the community in Forster-Tuncurry—that is, those beds will not be provided until the end of the financial year.

This is a community from which people have to travel some 34 kilometres to Taree to access a public hospital. This is an ageing community, and the transport links between Forster-Tuncurry and Taree are marginal at best. I say to the state government: ‘You have now made the commitment to lease these beds. Provide those beds now. We are ramping up services and the federal government is committing more funds, but we need you to provide those beds now.’

There is no difference in cost between providing a bed in Taree Base Hospital and leasing that bed in the community in Forster-Tuncurry. But what we see is a continual dragging of the chain. I will not believe that these beds have come to fruition until they open on day one. The community demands and, more importantly, deserves these beds as part of their health care. The community is continuing to raise funds. There are further expansion plans for the hospital. Indeed, it was only a couple of years ago that the second floor of the hospital was built so that it could cater for further patients. We have had no real response. It was only because Reba Meagher, the New South Wales Labor Minister for Health, was cornered that she had to admit that the beds would be made available. (Time expired)