Federal takeover threatens hospital
By Jane Ross
THE Federal takeover of hospitals would be disastrous for South Gippsland.
McMillan MHR Russell Broadbent, said it could well mean the closure of small hospitals such as those at Leongatha, Korumburra and Foster.
“The Prime Minister has said there would be no hospital closures, but we don’t know what decisions a regional board will make.”
And it is the prospect of regional boards that presents the major threat.
Under the Rudd Government plan, hospital boards would be replaced by a regional model.
Nationals Leader Peter Ryan said that would probably mean a centralised board in the Latrobe Valley, covering the whole of Gippsland.
His colleague, Shadow Minister for Health David Davis, said the Rudd plan was unclear, but the Prime Minister had not ruled out axing local hospital boards.
Nor was it clear what the implications would be for hospital management and overall job security.
Mr Broadbent explained that with the federal plan offering no extra money, no more beds, no extra services and no more doctors, regional boards would be under pressure.
“My concern is that they would say we have hospitals at Wonthaggi, Latrobe, Bairnsdale and Sale. Why fund a small hospital at Leongatha?”
He agreed such a move would “go down like a lead balloon”, but said the Prime Minister didn’t give a toss about the fact that Federal seats in the region are marginal, so political pressure wouldn’t wash.
Mr Ryan said Mr Rudd had “no idea” how big Gippsland is, nor the “unique features” that characterise its health services and hospitals and was therefore ignorant of their place in local communities.
“We need to maintain our structures. He has no real practical understanding of how absolutely vital this is to our communities.”
Mr Ryan and Mr Broadbent share grave concerns about the takeover plan.
Mr Broadbent said the government would appoint “people of their own ilk” to the regional health boards; people who would do their master’s bidding.
And, with funding at a 60/40 federal/state mix, “he who pays the piper calls the tune”.
“We don’t want someone in Canberra dictating what happens in Leongatha.”
But that could eventuate.
Mr Ryan said the risk of regional boards covering large areas was “a reality”.
“In the absence of specific detail, which we’ve been seeking, that is my read.
“That is just unacceptable from our point of view.”
On the issue of regional boards alone, Mr Ryan said that in his mind, the whole takeover plan “would fall over”.
He said in reality there will be a lot of discussion
between the federal and state governments about money for hospitals, but the matter of community rather than regional boards “is the fundamental”.
Mr Broadbent agreed.
“The issue for us is the protection of small
Nevertheless, Mr Ryan is “quietly confident” the State budget to be handed down early in May, will include money for a new Leongatha Hospital.
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