The State Government has refused to rule out closing regional nursing posts and district hospitals under Labor’s new “razor gang”, threatening to plunge regional health back into the dark old days of pre-Royalties for Regions.
The Nationals WA Leader Mia Davies today questioned Health Minister Roger Cook in Parliament over his Sustainable Health Review, which allegedly aims to “improve financial sustainability” in the health system.
“Many long-term regional residents will remember Eric Ripper’s Razor Gang back in the early 2000s when the previous Labor Government took a hatchet to all government services,” Ms Davies said. “Now we’ve got ‘Roger’s Razor Gang’ looking to make similar cuts to the regional health sector.”
In 2008 the former WA Country Health Service chief executive Christine O’Farrell was critical of Labor’s city-centric view of health funding which left country patients the poor cousins.
“Who could forget the CEO of Country Health stating the regional responsive emergency system was ‘blatantly bloody unsafe’ under Labor,” Ms Davies said.
“At the time Nationals MPs were inundated with horror stories, including Pilbara residents enduring agonising road trips through the night because there was no emergency transport available or when Dumbleyung District Memorial Hospital could not provide adequate services because it had no visiting doctor.”
Ms Davies said critical pockets of country health were rendered ineffective due to Labor shortfalls in funding and the training of doctors, particularly GPs with the broad range of skills needed for country practice.
“There was a culture of chronic neglect under Labor between 2001-2008 and we’re headed back there,” she said. “Let’s not forget that more than half of the current Labor Government’s $5 billion worth of election commitments are tied up in Metronet. With the perilous state of the Budget they will need to find cuts to fund their promises.”
Ms Davies said Labor’s shortfalls in country health during the early 2000s were a catalyst for the establishment of Royalties for Regions.
“The WA Nationals were determined to end Labor’s failure in regional health by putting Western Australians living outside Perth at the front of the queue for the first time ever,” she said.
“We initiated the rebuild of WA’s country health system through programs such as the Southern Inland Health Initiative, breathed new life into the Royal Flying Doctor Service, created the Telehealth network and provided incentives to attract and retain doctors and allied health professionals in the regions.”