KURRI KURRI HOSPITAL EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT
Mr KERRY HICKEY
(Cessnock) [6.11 p.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House a major concern throughout my community. On 23 January 2009 the Minister for Health saw firsthand the Cessnock electorate's view about downgrading health services, particularly the recommendation in the Garling inquiry to close the emergency department at Kurri Kurri Hospital. The Hunter New England Health Service has been systematically downgrading Kurri Kurri Hospital, and the service can save more money by closing the emergency department. It is quite disturbing that the New South Wales Labor Government would consider reducing services further to the communities of Kurri Kurri, Weston, Abermain, Neath, Heddon Greta and Cliftleigh.
More than 1,500 people attended a meeting on Friday 23 January 2009 in 43-degree heat before a long weekend during school holidays. That shows that communities in the Cessnock electorate will not tolerate in any way, shape or form any further reduction in services to this or any other hospital in the electorate of Cessnock. The rally in support of Kurri Kurri Hospital was organised by Cessnock City Council and supported by every community group across the electorate. There were representatives from service organisations, businesses, industry groups, unions and the general community. I am very concerned about the lengthy time involved in the office of the Minister for Health arranging a meeting to discuss this issue. As the elected member for Cessnock making representations in this House on behalf of the community I will continue to lobby the Minister for a positive outcome for the Kurri Kurri Hospital emergency department. I have a petition on behalf of the community that is signed by 2,300 constituents who request that the Kurri Kurri Hospital emergency department be kept open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The petition, addressed to the State Government and the Minister for Health, John Della Bosca, states:
We the undersigned would like the Minister to ensure that the emergency department at Kurri Kurri hospital remain open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to prevent putting any community member at risk.
I will place the petition in the possession of the Minister for his information. If this is the way that health services are to be delivered in the future—with the risk that people in this area do not receive emergency treatment—then we should take a good, long look at ourselves. Currently when people present to this hospital with any ailment, other than a splinter, they are transported to Maitland Hospital, where they can wait up to 10 hours for treatment. It is an appalling situation that is nothing more than a plan by Hunter New England Health to save money.
When one delves into health delivery by Hunter New England Health one cannot but notice that the top-heavy bureaucracy is looking at service delivery cuts to save money rather than streamlining management tiers to deliver better service. It is unacceptable to my community. To say that this plan will provide a better delivery of health services in the Hunter is ludicrous. A plan to close an emergency department to provide better outcomes for patients, when they already wait a long time at neighbouring hospitals, lacks credibility and common sense to say the least.
The executive officer of Hunter New England Health Services has said that patients will be better off if they are transferred to John Hunter Hospital for treatment for heart attacks and strokes. My understanding is that a person who has had a stroke needs quick treatment to minimise stroke damage. That will not occur if a patient has to travel and wait extended periods for treatment. If the objective is better delivery of services—and it should be—then it would be better to utilise Kurri Kurri Hospital in a manner that will lessen the waiting periods at Maitland and John Hunter hospitals.
My community expects no better treatment than any other community across New South Wales. The closure of any health service at Kurri Kurri or Cessnock, on top of previous cuts to services, is a downgrade of services and is not supported by the doctors, the nurses or the communities. I ask the Minister to give the community an answer in relation to the Garling report, as he promised to the community at the rally. The community expects, demands and deserves a much fairer and just service delivery.