Maitland Health Infrastructure
My speech calling on the Government to reveal when the new Lower Hunter-Maitland hospital will be completed and make a commitment not to close the existing Maitland Hospital.
Since I arrived in this place I have been appalled at the Baird Government's attitude to health issues in my electorate. The Labor Party has a proud tradition of delivering for Maitland. In the Fifty-fourth Parliament—Labor's last term in office—more than $300 million was delivered to provide for the third river crossing and work on the Hunter Expressway. Both of those pieces of infrastructure were crucial in the recent floods. I draw the attention of the House in particular to the Labor Government's record on health, and specifically the $10 million upgrade to the Maitland Hospital emergency department that was undertaken in 2011. That funding delivered 13 new treatment spaces, 12 new beds, and 300 jobs during the construction phase. Members should compare that with the Baird Government's offerings in the Fifty-fifth Parliament. As I said in my inaugural speech, the only full acquittal of the $80 million in promises made by the Coalition in its first term in office was the $5 million allocated Maitland City Council for the levy bank project. It should be noted that that was a low-interest loan, so the Government will get its money back. Given that, nothing has been delivered. The Government not only has cut funding for the health sector and community counselling but also is playing games with our hospitals. This situation goes to the heart of the reason that I was removed from the Chamber during question time today. The Government has been secretive about the hospital model that it is proposing. It tells us that all will be well because Calvary Mater Newcastle is a public-private partnership. However, it forgets to mention that that is a legacy model and that nuns are no longer building hospitals. It is more than likely that the hospital will be built by private, for-profit operators such as Ramsay or Healthscope. That is what happened in Frenchs Forest. The public-private partnership model involves decisions about care and service levels being made by for-profit groups. There are no mandated staffing ratios, adequate standards are acceptable and there is no reporting. This is an extreme concern, given that the Maitland Hospital emergency department experienced a code red situation at Christmas 2014. In addition, the Government wants to close the existing Maitland Hospital. When the new Lower Hunter hospital was first promised it was to be an additional resource. The former member for Maitland and the Department of Health promised that it would be a "John Hunter sized" tertiary hospital. Now, four years on, there is no time frame for the commencement of building works, it will be about half the size that was promised, and the existing Maitland Hospital will be closed. Instead of a tertiary public hospital in addition to the existing public hospital, we will have a second-tier rural referral public-private partnership hospital with a helipad. The helipad will enable complex cases to be transferred quickly because the new hospital will not be able to deal with them. Patients who travel to Calvary Mater Newcastle for cancer treatment will still have to make that journey because those services will not be delivered at the new hospital in the short to medium term. The Baird Government has done nothing for the Maitland health sector for the past four years. Members opposite have sat on their hands and all we have is a $6 million sign on Metford Road. I was ejected from the House during question time today because I interjected during the responses by the Minister for Health and the Deputy Premier to questions about rural and regional health initiatives and other health initiatives. Neither of them said anything about the new Maitland hospital that the Government has been promising for more than four years. It is time for them to put up or shut up. Earlier this week I asked in good faith a question of the Minister for Health about the anticipated time frame for the opening of the new Lower Hunter-Maitland hospital. This question is vital to my electorate and, as such, it was appropriate for the Minister to answer it with civility and clarity. Instead, I got an arrogant response. The former member for Maitland was constrained in her ability to raise these issues with the Government because she was a member of the Liberal Party. I will hold the Government to account on its health promises. On behalf of my constituents, I demand to know when the new Lower Hunter-Maitland hospital will be completed and I want a commitment from the Minister for Health not to close the existing Maitland Hospital.