Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW) Amendment (Review) Bill 2016
As we have heard, the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW) Amendment (Review) Bill 2016 relates to various health professional councils, is designed to streamline the complaints-handling process in New South Wales and is nothing more than a tidy up. In a system where health complaints have risen by 10.5 per cent—or more than 5,000 complaints—from 2013-14 to 2014-15, much more than a tidy up is needed; we desperately need more resourcing for this system. The Baird Government slashed $3 billion from the health system and the Turnbull Government federally added to this with its $17 billion in cuts. There are now $20 billion reasons for the Government to improve the health system—not merely to streamline the complaints process but to prevent complaints from happening. These are not vexatious complaints. People have real and genuine concerns about the direct impact of these cuts on their health care. But this is not the fault of those who provide that care because what more can they do? Earlier today in this place a question was asked about what the State Government had done to improve our nation. What action has the State Government taken to help our national economy? Members opposite have done nothing; they just sat there while the Federal Government ripped almost $17 billion out of the health system. Indeed, they have cut another $3 billion to make the figure a neat $20 billion. Our system is under stress. The local hospital is trying to service over 75,000 people yet it has only 188 beds. The hospital that was originally promised back in 2010, before the last election, was planned as a 750-bed hospital. With the Government's cuts, we are now told that there will be fewer than 315 beds. Before I was elected to Parliament I spoke to the medical council of doctors at Maitland who expressed their grave concerns not about what will happen when the new hospital is built, but about how they will cope in the meantime until that hospital, which may have just over 300 beds, is built? As every day goes by in my community without that hospital, people who need urgent medical attention struggle with a lack of health services. They need surgery or medical procedures but they cannot be performed in the existing hospital because of a lack of beds. More beds must be made available but that cannot happen while these cuts are being made. Doctors have told me that the $400 million the Government has promised for the hospital is totally inadequate. They need an $800 million hospital and new resources. Cancer patients should be able to obtain chemotherapy in Maitland. It is appalling in this day and age that a city with a population of 75,000 does not have facilities for chemotherapy and radiation treatment. We should consider the effect this will have on comorbidities that have an impact on health. Diabetics who cannot obtain proper treatment or the necessary surgery because of long waiting lists will have poor health outcomes. Elderly people who are unable to have the knee replacements they require will experience limited physical mobility. As a result, they will put on weight and become subject to heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, stroke and other diseases related to obesity merely because they cannot get on a list for knee replacement. Our private hospital in East Maitland is going ahead in leaps and bounds. It is creating all sorts of infrastructure problems for the community with parking and access to buildings. There is a simple lack of public facilities. The Government should put money into health and into communities like mine, which is growing by five people a day; it should help people across the State. Yesterday I turned the first sod at the site of a shopping centre redevelopment in my electorate. A private investor intends to spend $372 million to extend that shopping centre so that people in my electorate and the surrounding regions have access to David Jones. If a private investor can spend $372 million to extend a shopping centre, how can the Government not spend the $400 million promised to my electorate for five years to build a hospital? It just seems crazy. Those opposite want us to go shopping but they do not want us to be healthy. Dr Hugh McDermott: Where are their priorities? Ms JENNY AITCHISON: Exactly. Nurses, doctors and ancillary staff in my community deserve to have the fully public hospital that the Government promised them. The Government promised to spend $400 million on that hospital. Public, public, public—that is what we want. There should be no more debacles like the public-private partnership in Port Macquarie. That looked fancy until the private sector walked away. We need more resources. The Government wants to encourage the delivery of health services by the private sector. What a shame that this Government will not back our community and ensure that we have the necessary resources to deliver health outcomes for every person in New South Wales. I support this bill, but it does not go far enough. The Government cannot just tinker at the edges by streamlining the complaints process so that it does not have to deal with 5,000 extra complaints in one year. That is not the point. The point should be to adequately resource the health system. That is what this Government has failed comprehensively to do. The nurses, doctors and ancillary staff in our hospitals are under massive pressure. Many of the practitioner managers, such as nurse managers, physiotherapy managers and psychology managers—all the specialist ancillary services—as well as nurses, have been taken away from frontline service delivery as the Government tries to cut costs. What does that mean? It means that those people have to undertake more management duties and are less able to provide the highly complex and specialised expertise that our health system requires of them. There are more people behind computers and fewer people in front of patients. That is not the measure of a good public health system. We must look at bed block. When there is a code red situation, as there has been at Maitland Hospital, everyone in the hospital drops what they are doing and rushes to the emergency ward. When the beds are full and there are no more spaces we must ensure that the bed blocks are not fixed simply by people being shunted out before they are ready. They should not be told to go home on Friday and then come back on Monday for an even longer stay, which is what we are hearing evidence of in our electorates. I am concerned about the health system in New South Wales. Yes, I want complaints to be dealt with more effectively and efficiently. There should be an audio recording of proceedings, similar to the process that is undertaken in domestic violence cases. That would provide the opportunity to hear the pain and suffering that people have experienced because of the lack of investment in health by this Government. That is really important, because you cannot capture that emotion in a transcript. We also need to look at reversing some of the cuts to the health system. The changes that are coming in the health system include charges for vital tests such as X-rays, blood and urine tests, ultrasounds, magnetic resonance imaging and Pap smears. Those fantastic preventative procedures that are saving lives will soon cost money. The net outcome of shifting the cost from the Government's pocket to the community's pocket means that we and our children will pay the price. People will not go to hospital; they will hold on until it is too late for help and treatment. The word that sums up the health system in New South Wales under this Government is "waiting". Patients wait at every stage. They wait for an ambulance. They wait outside the emergency department. They wait inside the emergency department. They wait for a bed. Wait, wait, wait.