Thousands of jobs may be axed from the NSW health service as part of deep budget cuts confirmed by the NSW Health Minister, Jillian Skinner.
Just days after the Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, announced a $1.7 billion funding cut in his department, Mrs Skinner confirmed this morning that $3 billion will be cut from NSW health over the next four years.
This includes $775 million from the imposition of a "labour expense cap" announced for every government department in this year's budget.
A further $2.2 billion will be cut from the department in efficiency savings. But while Mrs Skinner admits the money saved under the labour expenses cap will go back to Treasury as consolidated revenue, she insists the $2.2 billion will be redirected to "front-line services".
The Opposition Leader, John Robertson, leapt on the confirmation this morning. He questioned whether the money would be redirected and warned the cuts would mean the loss of 3600 jobs.
However, Mrs Skinner said it was "not necessarily jobs that will be cut". She said the savings could be found by cutting overtime or not relying on locum doctors or agency nurses. The decisions would be made by local health district authorities.
Mr Robertson said the cuts were "huge and unprecedented" and warned they would "decimate health services in NSW for years to come".
The Labor health spokesman, Dr Andrew McDonald, said nurses and doctors would not be shielded from the impact of the cuts.
"It is impossible to quarantine care in our hospital wards and operating theatres from this extraordinary attack on health funding in NSW," he said.
"As someone who has 39 years experience working in the NSW health system, I know these funding cuts will cause absolute chaos in our hospitals.
Mrs Skinner said the health budget this year was $18.3 billion, or 27 per cent of the state budget.
This week Mr Piccoli announced $1.7 billion would be cut from the education budget, including $161 million from independent and Catholic schools over four years.