THE HON CATHERINE KING MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE
FEDERAL MEMBER FOR BALLARAT
LABOR CANDIDATE FOR DAWSON
THURSDAY, 17 MAY 2018
SUBJECT/S: Mackay Base Hospital, hospital funding
BELINDA HASSAN, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR DAWSON: Today we have invited Catherine King, who is our Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare to Mackay to come and see our facilities here and obviously see where the current government is lacking in facilities that have been provided to our community. So I’d like to hand over the Catherine.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE: Thanks very much for that. It’s terrific to be here with Belinda Hassan, I’m Catherine King and I’m the Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare, here at the Mackay Hospital. Belinda has asked me to come here today to look at this fantastic facility, a $400 million investment from a progressive state Labor government that we see providing terrific facilities here to the people of Mackay.
Of course that is in stark contrast to what we have seen from the Liberal Turnbull Government. Just from 2017 to 2020, the Liberal Government has cut $3 million from this public hospital. That means that this hospital is short of elective surgery, outpatient visits, the emergency department being able to have those appointments made as well. $3 million out of this public hospital – and of course that’s about $4.5 million out of the local health and hospitals service overall.
Those cuts have a significant impact. We know that public hospitals across the country – and I understand Mackay is no different – are under increasing pressure. Demand is going up, particularly for elective surgery, but also in emergency departments. And acuity is going up, people are sicker when they actually end up coming to hospital. And that puts demand on our staff, it puts demand on our doctors and nurses, and on the administration who are trying to do the best they possibly can with the resources that they’ve got.
This hospital deserved to have that $3 million. Labor intends to restore the Commonwealth share of funding for our hospitals. That’s $2.8 billion from 2019 going back into our public hospital system that Malcolm Turnbull has ripped out. That means more elective surgery, more outpatient appointments, more emergency department waiting times being met, more beds being available, more nurses, more doctors in hospitals such as Mackay across the country. We know public hospitals are under pressure – they’re under pressure because Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t value them, doesn’t value investment in our public hospitals. And I’m happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: So has Belinda taken you through some of the impacts the funding cuts have actually had on the hospital?
KING: I’m going to talk to the staff here in a minute but I’ve certainly seen the front page of one of your local newspapers today about someone waiting a very long period of time – an elderly person waiting a long period of time to get what should be pretty routine procedure on a broken arm. Those sorts of things are happening across the country as more and more hospitals are under pressure and in demand. We’re asking our hospitals to do more, we know people are coming in when they’re sick – we should also be supporting them with the resources to be able to do that.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned that acuity is going up too. Should there me more spent on preventing some of these.
KING: Well again, that’s why it’s so important that we value primary care – our GPs and our nurses and our allied health professionals working out in the community. We were pretty shocked in that 2014 Budget when we saw the Liberal Party decide it was going to put a co-payment on people going to see GPs and allied health specialists. And we saw over the course of their time that we’ve had a six-year freeze on the Medicare Benefit Schedule – and that has meant that for patients, out-of-pocket costs are going up – more and more doctors are charging our patients, charging privately for people to be able to go and see their GP. And that means millions of Australians actually take the decision to either delay going to their GP, not go to their GP at all, stop filling scripts, not taking specialist appointments. And of course that means people end up sicker by the time they get into hospital. And we should be able to care for them in our community. We’re not supporting our GPs enough and the Turnbull Government is certainly not supporting our public hospitals.
JOURNALIST: What would a funding scheme under Labor look like?
KING: Well $2.8 billion from 2019 to 2025 is an important investment in our public hospitals. When we were last in Government we invested some of those funds into decreasing emergency department waiting times, making sure we were meeting more elective surgery waiting times as well. States and territories are raising other issues with us as well – they’d like to see outpatient waiting times come down. We know that many people in fact are not even able to get an outpatients appointment to get on elective surgery waiting lists and that’s become increasingly difficult. There are other issues with things like colonoscopies which is a really important procedure – waiting times for that across the country are also increasing, not just in this state but other states as well. So states and territories are saying they might want to do things a little bit differently this time around with the money but $2.8 billion is a substantial improvement on what the Turnbull Government has done, year upon year: cut after cut to our public hospital system.
JOURNALIST: And where’s the money going to come from for all this?
KING: So of course the money that Labor is able to invest in our schools and hospitals comes from not doing the $80 billion worth of tax cuts that the Government has decided are its priority. $80 billion of tax cuts to large corporations, $17 billion of it going to Australia’s largest banks – that is money that we believe is better spent on our schools and our hospitals. It’s an important investment in our country’s future and that’s where our priorities lie.