In Health

New South Wales Shadow Treasurer Mike Baird

Speech On Northern Beaches Hospitals

Victor P Taffa

New South Wales Shadow Treasurer Mike Baird has rightly condemned the Keneally Government over the Federal takeover of Hospitals as handed down by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. This is an address to the NSW Legislative Assembly on hospital funding by Mr. Baird.

Mr. MIKE BAIRD (Manly) [6.55 p.m.]: I draw to the attention of the House the persistent downgrade of Manly Hospital and Mona Vale Hospital by the NSW Government. While the Premier is popping champagne corks at the moment over her deal with the Prime Minister to give up the State’s GST, the morale of health staff on the Northern Beaches is at rock bottom and I strongly believe that patients are suffering.

The latest service to go from Manly Hospital is its aged care rehabilitation ward. That means another 10 beds will be lost. All aged care will now be at Mona Vale Hospital.

Michelle Franks, chair of Manly Hospital’s medical staff council, said staffs was given almost no warning before the announcement was made—they were not consulted, they were sidelined. That is an insight into the culture at present. Staff deserve so much more. Today’s Manly Daily reported that Dr. Franks said:

We have a lot of aged care patients who need rehabilitation services and it’s a resource that has always been used.

Since last year, Manly Hospital has been caring for all mums on the Northern Beaches after the Mona Vale maternity unit was closed. That means women up and down the Northern Beaches travel an hour in some instances during labour to give birth in a unit that is already stretched beyond its capacity. It is doing a great job but it is certainly stretched.

Last week my office was inundated with stories from passionate midwives determined to do everything they could to stem the loss of services from their hospitals. They feel unbelievably passionate about this matter. Within five days an online petition had received almost 700 signatures from midwives and patients who felt they had been left out in the cold in relation to some of these decisions.

The words of midwives tell a story. A local midwife who was uncomfortable with disclosing her name for fear of retribution wrote to me:

Time and time again we are the forgotten ones. Many midwives are leaving. The challenges faced by all every day are growing rapidly.

Another midwife said:

The situation at Manly is quite unsustainable. The uncertainty of the future plan for Northern Beaches maternity services and the lack of a clear direction on whether we will remain as one unit or not, and if so where that will be located means that many of us are considering leaving the public sector—That is a tragedy—some are thinking about early retirement and several staff have already left their jobs due to dissatisfaction with the situation.

And another said:

We are truly concerned for the current and future welfare of the women and their families in our community.

I feel particularly strongly about midwives. In my inaugural speech I spoke about two wonderful midwives. Following the birth of my second daughter Cate, my wife suffered a post-partum haemorrhage and I nearly lost her but for the two midwives, angels they were, who intervened and saved her. I made a commitment in my inaugural speech that I would support the cause of midwives. I do not want to forget the service that they provided. Today I am sure they would share the concerns of their colleagues.

A first-time mum from Church Point wrote to me in despair. Two weeks before her due date she received a letter saying she could not deliver at Mona Vale as planned. Her labour was quick and in the 45-minute drive to Manly Hospital she almost ended up delivering by the roadside. She said:

It is unacceptable and far too dangerous for all involved to be allowing women like me to drive past a fantastic hospital with maternity facilities in an attempt to get to another hospital—the unit is far too small to be coping with the influx of women from all areas of the beaches.

Despite the Premier’s rhetoric about Health reform, the Government has an appalling track record—there is no other way to describe it. Manly and Mona Vale hospitals have been subjected to consistent downgrades and it has to stop. The hydrotherapy pool at Manly Hospital closed early last year. The medical air system that supplies oxygen for caesarean births recently broke down while mums were in labour.

Staff from the Phoenix Unit was made redundant before a tender was even issued for the new operator. That drug and rehabilitation centre has operated for 18 years and has a two-month waiting list. This cannot continue. What is the solution? What does the Government do? I call on the Minister for Health to act below the glamour of trying to establish a health reform process that requires many answers to some of the questions.

Since 2006 the State Government has been promising to build the new Northern Beaches hospital. People of the Northern Beaches are sick of empty promises and know that the only way this hospital will be built is by a government that is committed to delivering on the health needs of this community.

I strongly say that that is an O’Farrell Government. The Premier and the Minister for Health have a chance to address this matter in the remaining time before the next election. I call on the Keneally Government to stop draining our hospitals dry. Patients and staff of Northern Beaches hospitals deserve more.

Editor Victor P Taffa believes that instead of funding sickness and hospital waiting lists by all Government’s the answer lies in long term funding for medical research for cures for all illnesses. The Medicare Levy should be increased to 2.5% and the increase directed towards cures for Breast Cancer, HIV, Leukaemia, Quadriplegia, Depression, Diabetes etc…

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