A promise by the NSW coalition government yesterday to fund a much-needed Tweed Hospital upgrade to the tune of $48 million if it is re-elected next month has had a mixed response.
Tweed’s state Labor candidate has slammed the pledge as an attempt to ‘blackmail’ voters into supporting the proposed Liberals-Nationals planned sell-off of the electricity network.
But the hospital’s medical staff and the Greens have welcomed the announcement, with the Greens calling for a clear time frame on the works to be done.
Deputy premier Troy Grant and health minister Jillian Skinner visited Tweed Hospital yesterday, accompanied by Tweed Nationals’ MP Geoff Provest, to announce the promised funding, which has long been campaigned for by the community and hospital staff.
The funding will be used for upgrades to the emergency department, an enhancement of wards and specialist units, and a new multi-storey car park.
Mr Grant said the upgrade ‘is a priority and work will start in the next term of the NSW Liberals and Nationals government’.
He said the commitment would ‘ensure it can deliver its first-class care in a first-class facility’.
Mrs Skinner said the hospital was ‘tired and in need of an upgrade to ensure it meets patient demand into the future’.
Mr Provest says he ‘fought so hard to ensure we received this commitment’ and slammed his Labor opponents for having ‘had their chance for 16 years in government to start this redevelopment but failed to act’.
‘They didn’t care about Tweed then and, now an election is upon us, they’re turning on the political spin machine. They’re a day late and a dollar short,’ he said.
But Labor candidate for Tweed, Ron Goodman, says Mr Provest is ‘blackmailing locals by saying you’ll only get this hospital funding if you support selling off the electricity network’.
Labor has warned the hospital funding is contingent on the coalition’s controversial plan to sell off the state’s electricity network, which has been stalled in the upper house.
Mr Goodman described it as ‘a promise that can’t be delivered’ and ‘just an attempt to blackmail people into supporting his risky plan to sell off the electricity network.’
He said it was ‘ just an attempt to blackmail people into supporting Geoff Provest’s risky plan to sell off the electricity network, a plan that will drive up your electricity prices.
‘Selling off the electricity network will also rip $1 billion of revenue out of the budget – money currently spent on schools and hospitals, each and every year.
‘The fact is Tweed Hospital is at breaking point and our local health system in crisis because Geoff Provest and his Liberal-National government have cut funding from our health and hospitals.
‘They’ve slashed $3 billion from NSW health and hospitals and now NSW has the longest elective surgery waiting list times in Australia.
‘First the Nationals cut funding for frontline health services and now they try and blackmail you. It shows you just can’t trust the National Party.’
The Tweed Greens welcomed the coalition’s promise but say a clear time frame and full funding commitment was needed from the government.
Tweed Greens candidate Andrea Vickers congratulated ‘local people who have been working to get what’s needed to provide essential healthcare for Tweed residents’.
Ms Vickers said it was ‘a pity’ that the ‘badly needed funding’ had ‘needed such a concerted campaign, which was added stress on a community who are already struggling’.
‘Labor let our region suffer while they funded urban servics, and now we’re seeing the coalition offer just a small part of what’s needed at an unspecified time in the future,’ she said.
’It’s great that there’s a promise for some part of the funding needed, even though it’s being made just weeks away from an election. That’s why we need a clear time frame for this to translate into work on the ground, so we can be clear that it’s really going to happen.
‘I’m concerned that we’ve been here before, and the community knows the coalition government is happy to say one thing and do another.
’Federally we were promised no cuts to health, and then we’ve seen this push to introduce the GP co-payment, which would have had a terrible impact in Tweed,’ she said.
The hospital staff’s medical council chair Dr Ian McPhee said the funds were desperately needed to cope with an increased demand from a fast-growing population in the Tweed Hospital catchment.
Dr McPhee told the ABC that for ‘too long’ the hospital’s needs had been ignored by a ‘centralist’ government in Sydney and the facility also had not been a high priority of the local health district board.