Maitland Mental Health Unit
The Hon. ROBYN PARKER: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware that the Maitland 24-bed mental health unit has only six beds in place for people with high needs? Further to this, is the Minister aware of statements made by the Premier, a former Minister for Health, who believes this level of investment appropriate for the region, considering the high rate of mental illness, especially in young people living in rural areas? Is the Minister willing to commit more resources to mental health care in the Hunter region?
The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS: The honourable member would be familiar with our "New Directions" statement in relation to mental health and would know about the investment that we are undertaking in mental health services, not just in the Hunter but across the State. She would also know, had she done her research, that when the Coalition was last in government—she was handing out how-to-vote-cards at the polling booths then—it closed 711 mental health beds. It did not add any beds, it closed 711 beds—and that was in addition to the 30 hospitals that it downgraded or closed. And I have not mentioned the terrific decision on Port Macquarie Base Hospital! Last week we had Tony Abbott saying everyone regrets the fact that Port Macquarie was taken back over by the State. Members should tell that to the community of Port Macquarie. The shadow Minister is running around saying that there is no better way than privatisation. Well, I have stated the Opposition's record.
When in government the Coalition closed 711 beds and downgraded 30 hospitals, yet it has the nerve to canvass this Government's commitment to mental health. The Government has already committed in a "New Directions" statement funding of around $900 million to mental health, one of the most rapidly growing areas of expenditure in health. As to the specific question, I will get advice about the particular bed configurations. The honourable member has nothing to worry about in terms of this Government's commitment to mental health but she does have something to worry about in terms of the record and commitment of her party.