State Opposition Leader John Robertson met with local Labor candidates at Nepean Hospital today to raise concerns about staffing levels and speculation about new hospital charges.
Among his greatest concerns is that the State Government has cut funding for hospitals by $3 billion.
“They have been spending on bits and pieces but there are not enough staff to provide the standard of service expected by western Sydney families,” he said.
“This government has cut $3 billion from staffing and that’s having a direct impact on hospitals like Nepean.
“They can say what they like but the labour expense cap is creating staffing pressures. When you break down the budget you can see that’s what’s happening.”
Mr Robertson said that after speaking to hospital staff, departments such as birthing and midwifery are really feeling the staffing pressures.
Londonderry Labor candidate, Prue Car, said that emergency is also feeling the pressure.
“Penrith is a growing region and people expect services such as health to grow too,” she said.
“The pressure on Nepean emergency is not because people are turning up with minor ailments. It’s because the State Government has cut $3 billion from the system and this means less staff dealing with more patients.”
Allanah Anson, executive member of the Police Association NSW and Penrith Valley Community Unions said that the hospital staff shortage is having a direct impact on police too.
“When we come down here and experience delays, our cars are off the roads when we should be out in the community,” she said.
“Particularly when Justice Health cannot take prisoners, police are left baby-sitting prisoners that need medical attention… this has happened at Amber Laurel in Emu Plains.”
Labor candidate for Mulgoa, Todd Carney, said an unconfirmed plan by the Federal Government to introduce a $36 fee for patients visiting emergency wards would be a terribly wrong decision.
“Tony Abbott never said a word before the election about charging people to visit the doctor or go to Nepean Hospital,” he said.
“We don’t want to live in a country where the credit card replaces the medicare card.”
“We can’t afford to create even more barriers to people’s ability to access healthcare,” added Penrith candidate Emma Husar.
Local Greg Chidgey says he’s proof that high costs are a barrier.
“I don’t have private health insurance because we cannot afford 300-odd dollars and a $36 fee may not sound like much but for those who are unemployed or struggling, it makes a big difference,” he said.
The Federal Government has not confirmed or denied the plan.
State Penrith MP, Stuart Ayres, has hotly defended the criticisms made by the Opposition.
“We’ve invested a record $619 million in the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District this year – an increase of 5.3 per cent, one of the biggest boosts in the state,” he said.
“Nepean Hospital’s budget has increased by $15.6 million this year to $364 million – a jump of 4.5 per cent – and will continue to grow.
“We’ve bolstered our nursing workforce with 60 additional nurses (FTE) now caring for patients across the District since the election.”