NORTH COAST HEALTH SERVICES
Mr BECK (Murwillumbah) [5.49]: I wish to refer to health service cuts at the Tweed Heads District Hospital and Murwillumbah District Hospital. As the media has reported, the Minister has partially backed down following representations to which I will shortly refer. An article in today's Gold Coast newspaper, Daily News, states:
I thank the 11,000 people in the Murwillumbah electorate, the Tweed valley and the southern Gold Coast who signed a petition, which was presented to this House last week. That petition was followed by a motion of no confidence in the Minister for Health. That motion was not carried but a clear message was given to the Minister, not only by me but by all members of this House, that we are not happy with the health situation in New South Wales.
I congratulate the 1,000 people who attended a rally on 7 September at Tweed Heads and another 1,000 who rallied at Murwillumbah on 21 September and showed their support for funding and upgrading of their hospital. About 260 members of the New South Wales Nurses Association are employed in those hospitals. They, the doctors and staff have willingly given their full support, and I congratulate them. I also thank the media and the shadow minister, the honourable member for North Shore, for their support. The Minister has backed down. He will not cut 12 beds from the Murwillumbah District Hospital; he will not cut 14 beds from the Tweed Heads District Hospital; and he will not reduce the operating theatre lists by one-third.
However, he has not given an assurance that he will open the new $5 million accident and emergency centre at Tweed Heads. He said it will be mothballed until July next year, and the $3 million extensions to Murwillumbah hospital for rehabilitation will be mothballed until next year. Both those projects were funded under the previous Government and are now completed but they will not be operational. The situation cannot continue. I ask the people of the Tweed valley to make sure that together we keep up the pressure. I am pleased that this pressure has come with bipartisan support from people from all walks of life. People of all political persuasions have signed the petition against the vicious cuts that have been made to health services.
I thank the Minister for the partial relief he has given, but it is not enough. I look forward to the 1997 budget, which must contain funding for the 200-bed hospital at Tweed Heads and an assurance that it will be built by the year 2000. If that does not happen, talk among Government members is that the Minister for Health will not be there much longer. His own party - the right-wing members of the Australian Labor Party - are about to cut him off at the knees, get rid of him and appoint a health minister who understands the true problems. The right wing has the numbers to remove him. If he is appointed to another portfolio, I hope he does not mess it up as he has messed up the health portfolio. It is a disaster. I call on the Minister for Education and Training to note what has been said today and to note the 11,000 signatures on the petition, which reads:
The first part of the battle has been won . . . But the Tweed community can not sit back and allow the hospital system to remain as chronically under funded as it is.
That funding be increased to bring the Tweed Valley Health Services in line with the population and needs growth in order that the Tweed District Hospital urgently becomes a 200 bed Base Hospital . . .