Tweed MP Geoff Provest says his government has ‘comprehensively’ ruled out charging a $7 emergency-department co-payment or ‘doctor tax’ for people seeking medical help at NSW public hospitals.
But his Labor challenger Ron Goodman claims the National Party MP failed to stop the contentious fee in a vote in parliament this month and the co-payment is still on the cards.
Ballina shire councillors seem to think so too.
A majority of councillors voted yesterday to write to the Federal minister for Health, the Opposition leader and all cross bench senators to express the council’s opposition to the proposed Medicare GP co-payment.
Greens councillor Jeff Johnson put forward the motion saying the proposed co-payment would effect the most vulnerable people in the community, put pressure on emergency units,
Meanwhile, Mr Goodman said NSW Labor earlier this year introduced legislation into state parliament to try to stop the federal Liberal-Nationals’ proposed co-payment ‘from being applied to public-hospital emergency patients like those presenting at Tweed Hospital.
‘On September 11, Mr Provest and his north coast National Party colleagues voted against Labor’s bill to stop the $7 fee: the official vote is recorded on the parliamentary website,’ Mr Goodman said.
But Mr Provest said the state health minister ‘has made it clear in NSW parliament and to the community that there will be no emergency department co-payment’.
He told Echonetdaily that Labor’s Health Services Amendment (Guaranteeing Free Hospital Services) Bill 2014 was a ‘media stunt’ and ‘scaremongering’.
He said his government had ‘increased the recurrent health budget this year by 5.2 per cent to a record $18.7 billion.
‘The Northern NSW Local Health District budget has also increased by $31 million to a record $666.7 million.’
But Mr Goodman said the Nationals ‘are slashing rural and regional health services rather than supporting them’.
He said ‘Labor will always defend a person’s right to access healthcare in a NSW hospital regardless of their financial position’.
‘Nobody should have to think twice about visiting a hospital emergency department in the middle of the night if their child is sick,’ he said.
‘But rather than supporting the legislation, Mr Provest voted with his Liberal Nationals government to allow the tax – which will hurt north coast families.
‘Putting a $7 tax on sick and injured people at such a vulnerable time is a cruel and vicious attack.
‘Mr Provest must explain why he actually voted in the NSW Parliament to ensure that an upfront $7 emergency department fee will be applied to patients presenting at Tweed Hospital.
‘After cutting $55 million from the Northern NSW Local Health District, Mr Provest has cynically opened the door for emergency department patients to be charged a doctor tax for treatment,’ Mr Goodman said.
(Mr Goodman said Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health CEO, Rod Wellington, revealed this week that $55 million was cut from the Northern NSW Local Health District budget.)
But Mr Provest said his government was ‘recruiting record numbers of nurses, rebuilding hospitals across the state and reforming the health system after Labor’s 16 years of neglect.
‘Instead of engaging in irresponsible scaremongering, Labor’s candidate should be joining me in thanking the hard working doctors and nurses at Tweed Hospital for maintaining a 100 per cent on-time record for urgent elective surgery and making strong improvements in emergency department performance,’ he said.