Mr MARTIN (Bathurst) [5.42 p.m.]: Today I speak on health services in the Bathurst electorate. As with most electorates, health services are under constant scrutiny in my electorate. Much has been done by the Carr Government to upgrade facilities in the Bathurst electorate in recent years. I point to the new hospital in Lithgow, the new multipurpose service [MPS] that has been constructed in Oberon and the MPSs currently under construction in Blayney and Rylstone. A new 55-bed wing was opened at Macquarie Care Centre, an aged care centre. Recently $1.5 million was announced for a CAT scanner for Bathurst Base Hospital. That is on top of the $700,000 upgrade of the accident and emergency section at the hospital in the past couple of years. Only last week the Minister announced that another $400,000 is to be made available for new high-tech equipment for the operating theatre and the recovery ward at Bathurst Base Hospital.
Whilst that is all good news, there is still much more to be done. In the last budget, after strong lobbying by me, supported by a wide range of community groups, $500,000 was provided by the health Minister to employ consultants to develop a plan of clinical services and a capital works program for the Mid Western Area Health Service. The main focus of this work from my point of view is the provision of a new base hospital for Bathurst. There is no doubt that this is the area of greatest need for capital works and services in the Mid Western Area Health Service region.
Mr McGrane: Peak Hill.
Mr MARTIN: Bathurst Base Hospital has served the people of Bathurst well but it cannot be further developed, one reason being the heritage order on part of the hospital. It has been said that Florence Nightingale had a role in the planning of Bathurst hospital. That gives an idea of how dated the facility is. Of course, it has been upgraded over the years. Under the guidance of Bathurst mayor, Councillor Ian McIntosh, and with particular input from groups such as Bathurst HealthWatch and the Bathurst branch of the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association, a comprehensive proposal was put to the Minister for Health arguing the case for a new hospital for Bathurst. The report even identified potential sites for a new hospital in case there was a need for a greenfield site as opposed to a new hospital on the current site.
There has been concern in the Bathurst community that the Mid Western Area Health Service had by stealth been moving both medical and support services from Bathurst to Orange. That is a concern I share. The Minister for Health has been asked to ensure that services at Bathurst hospital are maintained until the consultants' report is completed later this year. It is worth noting that the growth rate for Bathurst is currently almost twice that of Orange, a fact that has been pointed out to the health planners. No-one would deny Orange or any other inland or country city, including Peak Hill, enhanced health facilities, but there is no doubt that there is no higher priority for capital investment in health than in the city of Bathurst. This is a matter that I will continue to pursue with vigour on behalf of my constituents.
I am encouraged by recent announcements by the health Minister in relation to Bathurst Base Hospital, some of which I have just outlined. I am particular pleased with his efforts in assisting with the recruitment of an orthopaedic surgeon for Bathurst. The medical staff council of Bathurst Base Hospital, led by Dr Ian Elbourne, is playing a positive role in mounting the case for a new hospital for Bathurst and enhanced services. I commend the staff council for being particularly effective in lobbying the Premier and other Ministers during the recent Cabinet meeting in Bathurst. This is the real feature of what is happening in this community. There is a common will. We have been able to pull together all facets of the community with a common aim: to get better health facilities for the city.
All members, whether metropolitan or country members, realise that all communities have a real ownership of their local hospital. In many cases, as in Bathurst, the local hospital was started last century. The community kicked them off and it was not until a progressive Labor Government took power in the State some time early this century that the Government accepted responsibility for health facilities. I continue to make the provision of a new base hospital at Bathurst my highest priority, and I look forward to continued community support.