Close to $90 million will be ripped out of Illawarra and South Coast public hospitals thanks to federal government budget cuts, according to Throsby MP Stephen Jones.
Mr Jones joined state Labor candidates Glenn Kolomeitz and Fiona Phillips at Shoalhaven Hospital on Tuesday to discuss the cuts, which will now start to take effect.
‘‘We are deeply concerned that the $55billion worth of cuts to hospitals nationally that Mr [Tony] Abbott announced in the budget are going to have a very heavy impact on regional hospitals,’’ he said.
‘‘There’s close to $90million worth of cuts to public hospitals between Helensburgh and the Victorian border – that’s a significant amount of money.
‘‘It’s impossible for hospitals to find these savings without frontline services being affected.’’
After the federal budget was announced in May, NSW Premier Mike Baird warned that the state’s hospitals would be forced to close about 300 beds due to the cutbacks on health budgets.
Mr Jones said while the Abbott government’s proposed $7 co-payment for GP visits wasn’t due to come in until this time next year, some of the budget cuts would start to hurt immediately.
‘‘Hospitals and health districts plan on an annual basis – they know what resources they have available for the next year and they have started to redesign services and staffing rosters accordingly,’’ Mr Jones said.
‘‘What they will mean is longer waits in emergency wards, longer waits for elective surgery.
‘‘I was talking to a person today who has been told he needs a colonoscopy within 30 days, but it looks like it will be months or up to a year before he gets it.
‘‘That’s just one example out of hundreds where people can’t get basic, and in some instances life-saving, treatment when they need it.’’
Mr Jones, shadow assistant minister for health, said people living in regional Australia would be hardest hit by the federal cuts to health.
‘‘There’s a greater incidence of health problems in regional areas – with a higher incidence of chronic disease whether it be diabetes or cancer or obesity,’’ he said.
‘‘Plus people are on lower incomes and they have poorer access to health professionals – particularly specialists.
‘‘That’s why it’s vital that areas like the Illawarra and Shoalhaven have access to affordable, publicly funded hospital services.’’
Mr Jones said the federal government should be investing in the nation’s health system, rather than a new paid maternity leave scheme that ‘‘nobody seems to support’’.
‘‘We need to ensure health becomes the number one issue at the next state and federal elections,’’ he said.