Sick state of affairs in NSW
By SAMANTHA HEALY
DEPUTY Prime Minister Mark Vaile yesterday blasted the NSW Government during his second lightning visit to the Tweed during the federal election campaign, after Health Minister Reba Meagher refused to allow the media to tour a federally-funded Tweed Hospital extension.
Ms Meagher's refusal to allow the media to accompany Mr Vaile was in stark contrast to when Federal Opposition leader Kevin Rudd was accompanied, after being granted permission, by the media pack when he visited Grafton Hospital late last month.
"You'd expect that state Labor governments are not going to give the federal government any assistance during the course of this campaign," Mr Vaile said.
Mr Vaile toured the $2.2 billion federally-funded clinical training centre being constructed at the hospital and accused the NSW Government of under funding its health department by $50 million a year.
"As you look around, you see where that is happening," Mr Vaile said.
"There is a drastic need for a greater injection of capital funds into this hospital and it's one of the things best identified by a local board."
Mr Vaile said up to 210 clinical staff could be trained at the new facility annually, with a new dental school planned. He mentioned plans to implement local hospital boards at every hospital nationwide, adding "remote bureaucracies" were failing regional hospitals, but denied the federal government was interfering in state matters.
"Public health is of national importance," Mr Vaile said.
"We (federal government) are not trying to take over but we do believe that the best way to manage hospitals is with local hospital boards.
"That way, there is an absolute focus on what is needed in this area.
"Patients don't care who is responsible, they just want services provided. (Local hospital boards) mean that local knowledge is deployed at local hospitals."
Mr Vaile would not say whether a federal takeover of Tweed hospitals was still a possibility.
During his visit, Mr Vaile, who was accompanied by Tweed MP Geoff Provest and Richmond candidate Sue Page, also met with residents at Banora Point to discuss plans for the now notorious black spot Sexton Hill. Late yesterday, the Deputy PM finished his tour at the Murwillumbah Hospital.