Coffs Harbour Electorate Health Funding
Mr FRASER (Coffs Harbour) [5.10 p.m.]: Once again I raise health funding in the Coffs Harbour electorate. I refer specifically to funding for the new base hospital at Coffs Harbour. When the Minister for Health visited Evans Head recently he was quizzed by the media about a lack of funding for a chemotherapy unit in Coffs Harbour. The Minister's response was, "I don't know what they are whingeing about; they have an $80 million hospital." It is high time the Minister spoke to the residents of Coffs Harbour. He would then realise that the best hospital in the world is of no value if you do not have enough money to run it. Vascular surgery and oncology, dialysis, orthopaedic and urology services are all being shipped out of town. The residents of Coffs Harbour need to have the services provided by Coffs Harbour hospital, but the Government needs to provide the funding to run those services. It is disgraceful for the Minister to say that Coffs Harbour has an $80 million hospital when he knows full well that there is not enough funding to run it.
Last week I met with Mr Terry Clout, the Chief Executive Officer of the Mid North Coast Area Health Service, and members of the medical staff council. We presented the problems to Mr Clout, who informed us that we have a three-year budget, so we know what will be spent. He then said to the doctors, "You tell me how to fix the problem." Mr Clout is paid a large salary to ensure that the services provided at Coffs Harbour hospital are properly funded. I invited Mr Clout to accompany me and the doctors on a visit to the Minister so we could raise the issues that the doctors were screaming about. The Minister would then be able to hear first hand from the chief executive officer that the people of Coffs Harbour are suffering because they are unable to access life-saving services from that hospital.
Mr Clout informed us that there is a $33 million per annum outflow from the hospital, and that the services are available to the hospital but the lists are full. We have a brand-new hospital, but two of its four theatres are closed, 14 beds in surgical wards are closed, 19 beds in the psychiatric ward are closed, and the rehabilitation unit, which has 30 beds, is also closed. When there are funding discrepancies and such a lack of services, it is misleading for the Government to claim that the hospital has 202 beds. The Government is misleading the people and it is not providing the funding to provide them with the services they deserve. The chief executive officer says, "You tell us, as clinicians, how to run the health system". I ask him to stop putting in administrators when services and appropriate medical staff are needed. To get those services and the staff, we need to get rid of the chief executive officer and the administrative staff.
Given that those people receive Isolated Patients Transport and Accommodation Assistance Scheme funding, the $33 million worth of services they are accessing in Sydney and other places must involve an enormous cost to the health system. The funding for those out-of-town services should be put back into Coffs Harbour hospital, so the people of Coffs Harbour can access the services locally. In my view, it is maladministration for a chief executive officer of an area health service to instruct staff to send people to Sydney for orthopaedic surgery, colonoscopies and the like. Mr Clout told the doctors that they had to determine their budget. The budget contains a $2 million allocation for long-wait surgery, but how are they applying that $2 million? They are buying machinery and chairs for ophthalmology so cataracts can be removed.
I do not doubt that those people need their operations, but a private clinic in Albany Street that is contracted to the area health service can carry out those operations very cheaply. The doctors suggested that the money should be put back into Coffs Harbour hospital, but that is not allowed. Why is it not allowed? Because 20 cataracts a day are being removed and at the end of the year they will be able to say they have increased the number of procedures. It is a disgrace, and I demand that the Minister have the service audited immediately. [Time expired.]
Mr STEWART (Bankstown—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.15 p.m.]: I am surprised to hear the comments of the honourable member for Coffs Harbour, who has been known to boast in this House about the great services provided at the new base hospital at Coffs Harbour, an $80 million state-of-the-art complex that was purpose-built by the Carr Labor Government to service the great area of Coffs Harbour.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Lynch): Order! I call the honourable member for Coffs Harbour to order.
Mr STEWART: If the honourable member wants to take these issues further, he should do so through the normal processes, that is, by making representations to the Minister. As Parliamentary Secretary, I am happy to take these issues forward and to make representations as well.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Coffs Harbour to order for the second time.
Mr STEWART: The honourable member for Coffs Harbour should not have a whinge every 10 minutes; he should take his concerns forward in a rational manner. The Government is proud of the Coffs Harbour Base Hospital, which was developed through the Carr Labor Government and has achieved state-of-the-art services for the people of Coffs Harbour. I am sure that those people are celebrating the success of that great hospital and the health system in Coffs Harbour.