Murwillumbah Hospital Support Committee chairman Ian Ross has reacted positively to Kevin Rudd’s hospital reform package.
Murwillumbah Hospital Support Committee chairman Ian Ross has reacted positively to Kevin Rudd’s hospital reform package. Crystal Spencer

Thumbs up for health reform

WHEN it comes to the Tweed hospitals, anything is better than the current system.

That is the view of North Coast hospital campaigners in the wake of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s release of his long-awaited hospital reform package.

Murwillumbah Hospital Support Committee chairman Ian Ross and Lismore Nationals MP Thomas George have given the plan their preliminary approval.

Under the new system the state will lose one-third of its GST revenue as the Federal Government steps up to provide 60 per cent of hospital funding.

Over five years $90 billion of GST monies will be poured into the National Health and Hospitals Network fund.

Small clusters of hospitals will be run by “local hospital networks”, and Canberra will fund and run all primary health care outside hospitals.

Hospitals will be funded for treatments delivered from 2012 and will have to work to a new national standard and reporting regime.

Mr Ross hoped the local hospital networks meant a return to the hospital boards not seen since the early ’90s.

“A hospital should be run by locals. It works better that way,” Mr Ross said. “I would like to see it return to something similar to the days when we had hospital boards.”

Mr Ross hoped the network would give doctors and nurses more of a say.

“I hope it brings back the old type of the hospital boards from the ’90s. While Rudd has made references to local control, I’m not sure how he intends to implement it.”

Mr George hoped the package would bring more funding to North Coast hospitals.

“If Rudd’s plan is going to improve the situation, then bring it on – but if it is just going to be more of the same old, same old, it won’t work,” Mr George said.

Mr George, whose electorate includes the Murwillumbah area, hoped the new system would address the chronic under-funding of North Coast hospitals.

“Left to this State Government, we are going backwards each year.”

“I would support the plan if the North Coast Area Health Service was allocated the $60 million it was under-funded each year.”

When asked if he was concerned about extra pressure on the viability of small hospitals, Mr George said: “In no way would I support closing down hospitals in my electorate”.

Tweed Nationals MP Geoff Provest warned however that a Federal takeover would not fix entrenched problems if it was just a case of handing control from Sydney to Canberra.

“What worries me is that Mr Rudd is talking about maintaining the out-of-control, out-of-touch and out-of-town area health service bureaucracies.

“Labor’s North Coast Area Health Service is at the root of the crisis, and funding it direct from Canberra is unlikely to deliver a better outcome for Tweed patients,” Mr Provest concluded.

Northern Rivers Department of Rural Health education director Dr Sue Page said she thinks Tweed and Murwillumbah hospitals would be bunched with Byron and Mullumbimby hospitals as the Tweed’s local hospital network.

“That would be a reasonable size for a network,” Dr Page said. “But if the government is happy to cross state borders, I can see Gold Coast joining up with Tweed Hospital and Murwillumbah fitting in with another hospital group.”

A spokesman for NSW health minister Carmel Tebbutt said the state was still digesting Mr Rudd’s plan.

“The announcement by the Commonwealth Government clearly represents fundamental changes in the way healthcare services are delivered in Australia,” he said.



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