Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW) Amendment (Review) Bill 2016

Dr HUGH McDERMOTT (Prospect) [5.49 p.m.]: The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW) Amendment (Review) Bill 2016 aims to address the statutory review of the national law in relation to councils for health professionals. It is a "tidying up" bill that will have a minor effect on the healthcare system in New South Wales. It includes items such as changing terminology, increasing the involvement of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal and mandating audio-recording of meetings. Those are reasonable changes; however, they do not address the greater issues at stake in the New South Wales health system.

Perhaps the biggest issue that the bill will fail to address is the dire situation of the emergency department at Fairfield Hospital in Prairiewood. Fairfield mayor Frank Carbone once described the emergency room at Fairfield Hospital as being like a McDonald's. It has just over 20 beds. It is severely underfunded. Its waiting area is barely cut off from the emergency ward and there are reports that some children have witnessed the horrific injuries that emergency departments deal with on a regular basis. It is in desperate need of funding to implement its master plan, but the Baird Government is yet to provide it.

Last year my office sent a letter to every household in Prospect within the catchment area of Fairfield Hospital. My office was flooded with replies thanking the hospital staff for their hard work and dedication but also expressing anger at how the Baird Government was not providing enough support to the hospital and surrounding areas. Parts of the bill reasonably seek to address complaints to the Health Care Complaints Commission in regard to administrative matters. However, no quantity of complaints can match the effect of the savage cuts to health that the Baird and Turnbull governments have implemented. The Baird Government slashed $3 billion from the health system. The Abbott Government slashed $17.1 billion, and the Turnbull Government has not reversed that cut. Patients, even those who cannot afford it, now have to pay for X-rays, blood and urine tests, ultrasounds, MRIs and pap smears.

If that was not bad enough, the crisis of the Baird Government's failure to deliver a solid healthcare system to the people of New South Wales continues. For example, ambulances have to queue outside hospitals while waiting for beds to become available. In my electorate, where the Fairfield Hospital has just over 20 beds, that is a worrying situation. Crystal methamphetamine, or ice, and its associated violence are creating havoc in our hospitals. We have all heard the stories of up to five paramedics being needed to cope with the increased strength of an ice user undergoing a psychotic episode. Health professionals, especially paramedics, do not receive the praise they deserve for placing themselves in danger when dealing with ice addicts on an almost daily basis. At Fairfield Hospital children have had to witness ice users undergoing a psychotic episode, due to the layout of the hospital. That urgently needs to change, and it could be done within weeks if the Government finally funds the Fairfield Hospital upgrade.

A total of 73,000 patients are waiting for elective surgery procedures, with the waiting time in Western Sydney being up to four years. The hand surgery department at Fairfield Hospital, for example, operates out of demountable buildings that are barely good enough to be classrooms let alone a supposed world-class surgery facility. Ambulance response times are increasing because the Baird Government is not providing the support that paramedics deserve. As I have said before, I owe my life to paramedics and a fast response time is the reason I am able to stand in this House today. I know firsthand just how important fast response times are, and Labor will fight for faster response times in New South Wales. Recently, my office was contacted by someone who had had to wait for more than 40 minutes for an ambulance. Luckily, the patient is alive and recovering. One can only wonder why an ambulance was not available earlier.

Once patients arrive at a hospital waiting times are an issue. Some 30 per cent of patients wait more than four hours. At Westmead Hospital and to the north of the Prospect electorate at Nepean Hospital—the two major hospitals in Western Sydney—52 per cent of patients waited longer than four hours in the emergency department. At Nepean Hospital 835 patients waited longer than 20 hours. At Westmead Hospital more than 900 patients waited longer than 16 hours. There is no denying that the health system is in a state of crisis. What has the Baird Government done to address this crisis in New South Wales? Let us have a look.

The Baird Government has suggested a 50 per cent increase to the GST and then give $8 billion of that to corporations in tax cuts while giving only $1.8 billion to health care. The Premier then said, "We can either kick this problem down the road for future generations, by which time it will be even bigger, or deal with it now." If the Premier was serious about improving health care, first, he would not be spending four times as much on corporate handouts than he wants to spend on health care. Secondly, he would not have sold New South Wales short on the power grid sale, which will lead to a dramatic loss in revenue which could have funded ongoing health costs and kept power bills low. It would take only $6 million to upgrade Fairfield Hospital to the extent necessary.

That is barely a drop in the ocean of the Government's revenue. That funding could have been raised if the Government had not wasted money on its ill-fated Opal Man and Stoner Sloth campaigns. With $1 billion allocated for 20 kilometres of the Parramatta Light Rail, shortening the proposed light rail network by 100 metres could raise enough money to completely reinvigorate Fairfield Hospital. If the Department of Education information technology upgrade had been completed on budget, Fairfield Hospital could have been upgraded 15 times over. With the tripling of revenue from speed and red light cameras under this Government, just 12 days of revenue could pay to complete a one-off upgrade of Fairfield Hospital.

Perhaps out of the thousands upon thousands of jobs the Baird Government is cutting from the public sector some of the savings could go towards upgrading Fairfield Hospital. But they are not. Of all the money the Baird Government is wasting and stripping from working men and women, none of it is going into upgrading Fairfield Hospital. That is simply shameful. The Opposition does not oppose the bill. However, it is concerning that the Baird Government has decided to target health professionals by imposing arguably stricter standards on those who do the most work. The Government should be looking to accept responsibility for failing the people of New South Wales through neglecting the health system.

If the Baird Liberal Government was serious about the Liberal-conservative ideology of individual responsibility it should not run for the hills and pretend there is no problem with the health system. It should stop pretending there is no problem with Fairfield Hospital. The Baird Government must accept responsibility for the increase in ambulance waiting times, the reduced availability of beds and the poor decision that is aimed at lining the pockets of its mates in the corporate sector through generous tax cuts instead of providing the basic services that the people of this State deserve. To reiterate, if the GST is raised the Premier wants to use the four times as much money on corporate tax cuts as he does on upgrading hospitals. He wants to give $8 billion cash in hand each year to the corporate sector and only $1.8 billion to hospitals. The long wait for elective surgery and emergency treatment continues. I congratulate nurses, doctors and the public hospital staff of New South Wales on their incredible patience under the incompetent Baird Government. I commend the bill to the House.

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