NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson met with health workers and union representatives at Springwood Hospital on Monday to discuss the State Government’s plans for a $3 billion cut to health funding.
He was joined by Blue Mountains Labor spokesperson, Trish Doyle, who said the “extraordinary attack on health funding” made “no sense ... given our growing and ageing population.
“The people of the Blue Mountains didn’t vote for unprecedented cuts to hospital and education funding but that is exactly what Barry O’Farrell and Roza Sage are delivering.”
Mr Robertson said the O’Farrell Government planned a $3 billion cut to the health system with $2.2 billion cut from health services and hospital budgets and $775 million cut from staffing budgets.
“Some 3600 health workers (are) set to lose their jobs and eighty per cent of 902 health job cuts this year (will be) from Local Health Districts,” he said.
“Frontline hospital workers will be sacked ... this meeting is an important first step.”
But the cuts are contested by State Member Roza Sage, and the NSW Government, with Mrs Sage adding “for the first time ever Blue Mountains Hospital at Katoomba will employ three new interns”.
Mrs Sage said “the O’Farrell Government has also proudly increased nursing staff to the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District”.
“It is very disappointing that the Opposition Leader once again tells blatant lies in an attempt to grab media attention,” Ms Sage said.
”He has set his GPS to the Blue Mountains on his mandatory six monthly visit, next time I hope he checks some facts.”
The meeting was the first of a series of community health forums being held this year organised by the Blue Mountains Unions Council and Penrith Valley Community Unions.
Union spokesperson Mary Court said she was worried for the future of the small Springwood Hospital and concerned whether it was targeted for closure.
Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner, said the NSW Health budget had gone up this year, “with a 5.4 per cent increase in funds from Treasury announced in the record health budget brought down in June”.
She said claims $3 billion would be cut from health were “not true”.
“It is the case that, over four years, $2.2 billion in efficiency savings will be made in health to be reinvested in frontline services ... in the health system.”
Mrs Skinner admitted that $775 million will be “taken out of the health system over four years — $89 million in the first year” due to “tough economic conditions, mainly due to the collapse in GST revenue”.
Mr Robertson said “local health professionals like nurses, paramedics and other hospital staff do an outstanding job, but we know they are under incredible pressure to do more with less”.
Friends of Springwood Hospital spokesman Richard Jackson-Hope said Springwood needed a physiotherapy unit and was “hopelessly antiquated and needed redevelopment”.
He had voiced concerns over a year ago to the local member without response.