Hunter Region Health Care
The Hon. ROBYN PARKER [5.09 p.m.]: One year and four months ago, around this same time of night, I referred in this House to a dire situation facing health care in the Hunter region. I might sound like a broken record, but the sad reality is that not much has changed in public health care in the Hunter. People are still suffering, their problems are worsening and mismanagement is rife. I put it to honourable members that the new direction in which Labor wishes to take this State is a lie. The community is still crying out for assistance but, unfortunately, the Government does not hear anything that does not resonate 10 kilometres beyond the Sydney central business district.
The Hon. John Hatzistergos: Point of order: The honourable member is misleading the House. It is against standing orders to mislead the House. Everyone knows that we have constructed a new health centre at Newcastle.
The ACTING-PRESIDENT: Order! The Minister will resume his seat. He is making a debating point; he is not taking a point of order.
The ACTING-PRESIDENT: Order! The Minister will sit down.
The ACTING-PRESIDENT: Order! I call the Minister to order for the first time. The Hon. Robyn Parker may proceed.
The Hon. ROBYN PARKER: Last year the Health Services Union campaigned strongly for two-person crews on ambulances following the tragic death of Rutherford schoolgirl Kayleigh Bradshaw. Single-officer crewing on the Rutherford rescue truck has still not been abolished. It could be six months before five new positions are filled at the station. How many more people are lone paramedics expected to treat in that time? How many more will they watch die? Ambulance officers have a hectic, stressful job and they might be required to lift heavy equipment, liaise with doctors at a hospital and move patients. How would the Minister feel if he were one of the State's brave ambulance officers trying, on his own, to restart someone's heart and clear his or her airways at the same time? This health Minister is incapable of fronting up to a budget estimates committee without a sizeable entourage.
The Hon. John Hatzistergos: Point of order: These matters are currently before the Industrial Commission. The honourable member should not be referring to matters that are before the courts.
The ACTING-PRESIDENT: Order! Unless the Minister is taking a point of order on sub judice he will resume his seat.
The Hon. John Hatzistergos: The matter is before the Industrial Commission.
The ACTING-PRESIDENT: Order! That does not count for sub judice purposes. The Minister will resume his seat. The Hon. Robyn Parker may continue.
The Hon. ROBYN PARKER: How many more health care workers could be employed if the wages of the Minister's many bureaucrats were redistributed? However, the Government is not redistributing funds; it is redistributing the truth.
The Hon. John Hatzistergos: Point of order. The Leader of the Opposition is the one that has not been paying pay increases to staff members.
The ACTING-PRESIDENT: Order! The Minister will resume his seat. The Hon. Robyn Parker may proceed.
The Hon. ROBYN PARKER: The Government is redistributing the truth, like it did with the Nelson Bay polyclinic—or, should I say, the Tomaree community hospital. Rather than providing the clinic with more funds for a full-time after-hours doctor, the obvious solution for this Labor health Minister was to change the name and call the polyclinic a hospital. Perhaps the Minister thought that by changing one word on some signage an after-hours doctor would magically appear.
The Hon. John Hatzistergos: That wasn't done when I was there.
The Hon. ROBYN PARKER: Nothing has magically appeared in Nelson Bay and the single after-hours doctor is now servicing many more residents.
The Hon. John Hatzistergos: That is not true.
The Hon. ROBYN PARKER: I acknowledge the Minister's interjection. He said that that was not done when he was Minister. I assume he is prepared to reverse the situation and ensure that Nelson Bay has a proper work force. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Research the population of Nelson Bay has increased by a dramatic 43 per cent since the doors of the polyclinic were opened in 1988. Colloquially known as sea changers, these new residents are drawn to the bay area for a superior way of life. That was before the Government announced its intention to create a marine park in that area. Those residents are now finding that there are an inadequate number of hospital beds in Port Stephens.
Every day in the Hunter region the lives of women in particular are being put at risk. The Director of the Hunter New England Health Gynaecological Cancer Centre, Associate Professor Anthony Proietto, recently described waiting times in the region as "totally unacceptable" and "detrimental to the health and prognosis" of gynaecological cancer patients. According to the latest figures printed in the Newcastle Herald in August, the average wait for cancer surgery is eight to ten weeks in the Hunter and another six to eight weeks, on average, to see a chemotherapy consultant.
The Cancer Institute of New South Wales said that women should have surgery within two weeks of diagnosis of gynaecological cancer. The emergency department at Maitland hospital is still struggling to treat emergency patients on time. The annual report of NSW Health shows that 700 or more triaged patients at Maitland hospital emergency ward were not seen in the recommended time frame. A direct correlation can be drawn between the ever-increasing waiting times and the increased stress that the Labor Government is placing on already overworked nurses in the New South Wales health system. [Time expired.]