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Issue #1581      February 13, 2013

TSI health cuts attacked

The Queensland government has been widely criticised for slashing 35 frontline health positions in the Torres Strait.

Last year, state Health Minister Lawrence Springborg and Premier Campbell Newman assured the public that no “frontline” health positions would be lost when the decision was made to massively reduce the health budget.

However, the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Hospital and Health Service announced last month the positions it would cut included 13 Aboriginal health workers, 13 nursing and two midwife positions.

Union Together northern lead organiser Kevin O’Sullivan said Indigenous people deserved better.

“Unless these cuts are stopped or reversed, health services will be hit at remote communities in the Torres Strait and the Cape, where people are paying $10 for two litres of milk and a loaf of bread,” he said.

“Since before the September 2012 Queensland budget, the Newman government made it very clear they were going to put the axe through Queenslanders’ health services by axing more than 4,000 health workers without properly consulting workers or communities.”

Mr O’Sullivan said the government health cuts would not help to “close the gap” on health for Indigenous peoples, who die up to 17 years younger than other Australians.

Together health delegate Dr Sandy Donald said it was a “matter of public record” that the Newman government had already slashed $3 million from Indigenous health services.

“Slashing 10 percent of the entire workforce for the Torres Strait region is a savage cut,” he said. “Do ten percent of the Torres Strait workforce really contribute nothing to health care?

“There’s no doubt this will have a dramatic effect on the Torres Strait community and economy of losing so many salaries that may well spark an exodus of those workers’ families.

“What consultation?”

“What clinical evidence is there to support these cuts, what consultation has been done with local health workers, what consultation has been done with local representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities?

“Additionally, the impact of losing this health education and prevention workforce for Torres Strait Islander peoples will cascade through our community for decades.”

Shadow Health Minister Jo-Ann Miller said Mr Springborg was “widening the gap” in Aboriginal and Torres Strait health outcomes.

“In last year’s budget, Mr Springborg cut $2.4 million from the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula board, which has resulted in these cuts to the smallest and most remote health region in the state which covers the Thursday Island and Bamaga hospitals,” she said.

“The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population already suffer a disproportionate burden of illness, by slashing health services the LNP government is only going to further disadvantage this community.

“The board was responsible for providing a range of primary and community health services, including chronic disease management, maternal and child health services, men’s and women’s health services, oral health, post-acute rehabilitation aged care, general home and community care services and family support for 11,000 people.

“With these savage cuts, Mr Springborg and the LNP Government is widening the gap in Indigenous health and pushing Queensland backwards.”

Mrs Miller said one of the key local positions to be cut was the clinical nurse consultant for rheumatic heart disease.

“This is outrageous as remote Indigenous communities are among the highest suffers of rheumatic heart disease in the world,” she said. “These latest health cuts by Mr Springborg are an international disgrace and a shameful example of how this LNP government treats Queenslanders in remote communities.”

Mr Springborg’s office did not respond to calls and emails.

Koori Mail  

Next article – Is super next for gov’t cuts?

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