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Bradfield visit by Shadow Minister for Health, the Hon Peter Dutton
Yesterday I was very pleased to bring Shadow Health Minister Peter Dutton into my electorate of Bradfield. We visited Hornsby Hospital, where we were shown around by Dr Richard Harris, Chair of the Medical Staff Council. We were joined on the tour by Mr Matt Kean, the recently elected Liberal member for the state seat of Hornsby.
Hornsby Hospital is the major public hospital in Bradfield, and serves a wide area of northern Sydney. Unfortunately, the hospital is in very poor physical condition and requires a comprehensive rebuilding program. Pleasingly, the incoming O’Farrell Government in New South Wales has committed to spend $50 million on Hornsby Hospital, which will be an important step along the path towards the required rebuilding.
On the tour we saw the overcrowded wards which offer little privacy and bathroom facilities which do not meet modern standards. We walked through the corridors – half open to the outside air – through which patients are wheeled from the wards to the operating theatre. Visiting one of the operating theatres, we saw how small it is (well below modern design standards), the fact that the wiring is inadequate for modern electronic equipment, and that the roof is not strong enough for the roof-mounted racks which are normally used in modern operating theatres to hold cabling, tubing and other equipment.
Peter Dutton was moved to observe that the conditions were among the worst he has observed in any hospital anywhere in the country. For my part, I was pleased to be able to use this visit to raise the visibility, with the nation’s alternative Health Minister, of the needs of Hornsby Hospital. It is disappointing that Health Minister Nicola Roxon has not visited Hornsby and I will be encouraging her to do so.
Later in the day, we held a policy forum with doctors from Bradfield and surrounding areas. We had a very good roll up, with over thirty doctors, both specialists and general practitioners, joining us for this session. In a wide ranging discussion, the doctors present had a lot to say about flaws in the health system today – and what should be done differently in setting national health policy.
Some key themes emerged from the discussion. There is a lot of scepticism about the Gillard Government’s new Local Health Networks (under which a group of hospitals is bundled together and managed collectively). General practitioners are very frustrated by many of the things this government is doing and believe it is mounting an attack on traditional general practice. One specific example: the announcement in last week’s budget of a new package for mental health concealed the fact that $400 million, previously dedicated to GP treatment of mental disorders conditions like anxiety and stress, has now been withdrawn. Another theme emerged very clearly: several of those present do work in indigenous health in rural and remote areas, and they spoke forcefully about the systematic health disadvantage faced by indigenous Australians.
As the Coalition works to develop its health policy for the next election, it is very important that we are gathering information and perspectives from all around Australia. Yesterday’s visit contributed to the information gathering process; personally I found it valuable in gaining a better understanding of some of the health policy issues of concern to the people of Bradfield.