ALBURY ELECTORATE HEALTH SERVICES
(Albury) [6.09 p.m.]: Yesterday, when speaking to the Address-in-Reply debate, I mentioned some problems in my electorate. Amongst those problems are health issues. I said to the Minister for Health that I would refer again to those problems tonight. I do so now simply because of my concern for the wellbeing of people in my electorate and the problems now faced in the delivery of health care in Albury. Yesterday I said that Albury has a first-class hospital, wonderful staff and some fine doctors. However, their efforts are being thwarted because of a lack of funding for the hospital. People ring me constantly and tell me about problems being experienced at the hospital and of difficulties encountered in obtaining care for themselves and their families.
I raise this matter not as a political football but simply to try to get better care for the people that I serve and a better deal for the people delivering health care in my electorate. Some of the stories that I have been told about delays are quite disturbing. There are long waiting times for elective surgery and other things are happening. At this stage hospital management has no idea of its budget. It does not know how much money it will have available to it and it is working in the dark. I have heard stories of people being held for up to three days in emergency wards rather than being placed in appropriate hospital wards. Beds have been closed. One 20-bed surgical ward has been closed for some
time. There was a rumour that 12 of the 30 beds in another surgical ward were to be closed, but that has not happened because of the increased workload in the surgical area.
A long-running dispute with orthopaedic surgeons, which thankfully has been settled, caused enormous problems for many people, in particular children who needed their bones to be set. Those children had to be sent to hospitals in other areas. Because of limited finances other aspects of elective surgery have had to be cancelled. I have heard stories of the late cancellation on Friday of eye surgery scheduled for Monday. Messages were sent to the surgeons’ rooms but they did not have much opportunity to let their patients know what was happening. The time of these surgeons is valuable but they are not being given any opportunity to reschedule their time. That places a burden not only on patients but also on surgeons.
These problems continue and there is no end in sight to this disruption to hospital services. I know that the morale of people working at Albury hospital is very low. They are extremely concerned about what is happening. I have attended functions and meetings and I have established that the people who work in the hospital are disturbed about some of the things that are happening. They are not working under ideal conditions, which is making it difficult for them and their patients, and that is being reflected at times in the way in which they deal with their patients.
I have heard that the Greater Murray Health Service is having problems paying its bills. People are waiting a long time for payment. I was told today on the telephone that the company that supplies drugs for chemotherapy has been waiting for a long time to be paid for the drugs that it is supplying. It is not prepared to cut off the supply of drugs as it is aware that patients will suffer, but it is getting impatient. I have been told many things but I have no way of verifying them. However, I raise these matters in the hope that, if they are true, the Minister will be able to intervene and do something about them. On occasions when I have flown to Sydney, businessmen who have been on the aircraft have approached me and asked for my help.
One businessman said, "The health service has owed me money for the last three months. I am not able to obtain payment. What can I do?" It is not good when the Department of Health is not able to pay for goods that are being supplied to assist those who are benefiting from health care. On Friday last week I had a meeting with the general manager of the Greater Murray Health Service and I raised some of these issues. I know that she is doing her best. Everyone engaged in the delivery of health care is doing his or her best under the circumstances, but some of these matters need to be addressed quickly to try to rectify these problems.
(Riverstone - Minister for Education and Training) [6.14 p.m.]: I will convey the comments of and the sentiments expressed by the honourable member for Albury to the Minister for Health. The honourable member for Albury, who raised these matters because of his heartfelt concern for his electorate and his constituents, is highly respected by Government Ministers because of the sincere and dedicated way in which he makes those representations. The honourable member for Albury said that he raised this issue, not as any sort of political football - he is not vouching for the accuracy of the various claims that have been made - but in the hope that the Minister for Health will check them out and provide him with a detailed and sympathetic response. I am sure that the Minister will do just that.