Hockey won't hurt our hospitals, says NSW health minister

NSW hospitals, including those on the North Coast, will be protected from health funding cuts announced in Tuesday's Federal Budget, the State Health Minister has said.

Health Minister Jillian Skinner said hospital services would be maintained and that the State Government would refuse to implement a proposed co-payment for people turning up at emergency departments for treatment.

The emergency department co-payment was announced as a way of preventing people unable or unwilling to pay the extra to see a GP from simply turning up at their local hospital instead.

Ms Skinner accused the Commonwealth of effectively shifting the cost of health services to the states and said the refusal to bow to the Federal health cuts would cost the State more than $1 billion over about the next three years.

"There will be no cuts to hospital services. We will continue our record investments in the NSW public health system," Ms Skinner said in a statement.

"This is a government that puts patients first. We have invested a record amount in health, with a recurrent budget of $17.9 billion this year - up 5.2 per cent over previous year and 15 per cent since I've been Health Minister.

"A further $1.2 billion is being invested in capital works this year, with a massive injection of funds to rebuild hospitals right across the state - from Tamworth to Dubbo, Wagga Wagga to Bega, Blacktown Mt Druitt, Campbelltown and Hornsby as well as planning underway at Westmead and elsewhere.

An artist's impression of the planned new Emergency Department at Lismore Base Hospital.
An artist's impression of the planned new Emergency Department at Lismore Base Hospital.

Among those projects is the new $80 million Lismore Base Hospital emergency department, which is due for completion in 2016 and is expected to include, on top of an expanded emergency unit, an emergency medical unit, an emergency care / fast track zone, an expanded medical imaging capacity, a new ambulance drop-off and bay, a new renal dialysis unit, a new hospital mortuary, future expansion space, and space for an expanded community health unit consisting of purpose-designed consult and interview rooms, along with a new pathology unit and a temporary 10 bed maternity unit. 

"We are treating more patients and improving performance in emergency departments, with 70.8 per cent of patients being treated and either discharged or admitted within four hours compared to 59 per cent when I became Health Minister," Ms Skinner said.

"We're undertaking elective surgeries quicker and leading the country when treating elective patients within clinical benchmarks.

"These achievements are testament to the efforts of hard-working hospital staff. I thank the doctors, nurses and others for delivering better outcomes for patients

"These wonderful clinicians put patients first and the NSW Liberals & Nationals will continue to put patients first.

"I have spoken to the Federal Health Minister today and advised him of my concerns and am committed to looking at options as part of our Integrated Care strategy to ensure patients are getting the right treatment in the right setting at the right time."