Vital hearing service threatened: Templeman

Labor spokeswoman for Macquarie, Susan Templeman, outside Australian Hearing in Springwood. She says if privatised, vulnerable users of the service will be affected. Pictured with Karen Wise of Valley Heights, who has a government-subsidised hearing aid.

Labor spokeswoman for Macquarie, Susan Templeman, outside Australian Hearing in Springwood. She says if privatised, vulnerable users of the service will be affected. Pictured with Karen Wise of Valley Heights, who has a government-subsidised hearing aid.

With hearing issues of her own, Labor spokeswoman for Macquarie, Susan Templeman, is worried by plans to threaten access to free and subsidised hearing services for Blue Mountains' pensioners and veterans.

She says that access is under threat with the Abbott Government's decision to look at privatising Australian Hearing. But MP for Macquarie, Louise Markus, says it is "Labor party scaremongering" and only a "scoping study" has been done into Australian Hearing's future.

Australian Hearing was opened in Macquarie Road, Springwood in 2009 with "locals having wonderful access to free and subsidised hearing services for nearly five years", Ms Templeman said.

Ms Templeman said it was "always outer Sydney and regional areas that suffered" when services went into private hands.

"I am especially passionate about this because I have suffered a hearing loss for many years, and recently started wearing hearing aids - so I know the difference it can make to someone who is struggling to keep up with conversations that are going on around them."

Ms Templeman said she also knew how expensive the process was and said it was vital "to keep costs as low as possible for pensioners, children, veterans and defence force families".

"It's particularly sad that the Government would denigrate the quality and service of our local staff to suggest that they should be privatised. Keep in mind that this is an organisation which last year posted an operating revenue of $203 million and a before-tax profit of $4.2 million."

Someone who recently received a $1500 subsidy to buy a hearing aid is Karen Wise of Valley Heights.

Karen's husband, like many former defence force personnel, also has regular hearing tests, provided locally by Australian Hearing, and doesn't want to see the service privatised.

"I think it's important there is a public service available locally, especially for older people who may need regular checks or not be able to travel easily outside the area," Mrs Wise said.

Ms Templeman and Springwood-based Shadow Minister for Human Services, Senator Doug Cameron, have launched a local campaign to protect Australian Hearing from privatisation.

"Since the announcement of the Abbott Government's Budget, I have been overwhelmed by locals who are fearful of the impact of the Coalition's cuts ... Privatisation of frontline health services is the next logical step," Ms Templeman said.

But Mrs Markus said she was "saddened ... that Susan Templeman continues to scaremonger the vulnerable in the community, such as pensioners and veterans".

"The Australian Government has provided funding for a scoping study into future ownership options for Australian Hearing.

"The scoping study will assess whether or not Australian Hearing should be privatised and will consider options, should a sale be agreed by Government, for an appropriate model to continue offering high-quality hearing services for all eligible Australians."

Mrs Markus said it was "business as usual for Australian Hearing. Privatisation or not, Australian Hearing will continue its commitment to excellence in service, clinical care and research."

And she added that the government "remains committed to ensuring that all eligible Australians, particularly the most vulnerable, have access to funded hearing services".

"Good management looks at ways in which we can ensure great services like Australian Hearing continues, and it will do so, to offer high-quality services.

"Susan and the Labor Party have no policies in place regarding governance so they look at negative scaremongering to gain political point scoring."

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