Meagher denies cuts, for now

NEW South Wales Health Minister Reba Meagher says people fearing a cut to services at Murwillumbah District Hospital are jumping to conclusions and should wait for the outcome of a review into the facility.

Ms Meagher might have been walking into the proverbial lion's den making such statements yesterday, only days after 6000 people marched down the streets of Murwillumbah to protest against cuts to the maternity ward at the town's hospital.

However the turnout to greet the Minister at The Tweed Hospital was far from hostile, limited to a throng of reporters and North Coast Area Health staffers.

Ms Meagher was on the Tweed to open a new 30-bed medical unit and a permanent BreastScreen clinic at The Tweed Hospital with Richmond MP and Federal Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot.

But when pressed about cuts at Murwillumbah District Hospital, Ms Meagher said that the external review of the hospital was not due to be released until mid-August and people should not jump to conclusions overs its findings. However, she did say that the hospital's maternity ward was not about to be cut overnight.

"The maternity ward will not be cut. That's just not on," Ms Meagher said. "This is not a money issue, it's a safety issue and there will always be an obstetrician at the hospital.

"We are promoting an environment in which mother and child are safe."

Ms Meagher also confirmed that a new obstetrician had been appointed to Murwillumbah and was expected to arrive to inspect the hospital this week.

Spokesman for the Murwillumbah District Hospital Support Committee Dr Alan Secombe welcomed the news of a new obstetrician and said he hoped the doctor would start as soon as possible.

"We have been waiting three years for this position to be filled," Dr Secombe said.

"I would be delighted if we got a written letter from Reba saying that she was not going to downgrade the maternity ward."

Committee chairman Ian Ross said he had put in an application for meeting with the Health Minister, but Ms Meagher denied any knowledge of that.

"I applied to have a meeting with Ms Meagher through our local Members of Parliament, Thomas George and Geoff Provest," he said.

Ms Meagher also said she was unavailable to attend the rally last weekend because of her hectic schedule.

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