Hospital beds – Public Accounts and Estimates Committee: budget estimates 2011-12 (part 1)

It is usually the member for Mornington who rises first to speak in this debate, so it is a pleasure today to speak first about a report from a committee of which the member for Mornington is a member — that is the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC). I have spoken on the estimates report a couple of times before, but today I will focus my remarks on the comments of the Minister for Health.

He appeared before the committee and made some interesting comments for which he needs to be held accountable. Since the minister appeared before the committee — and this is in my notes — we have had the benefit of a further 10 months of experience with the Baillieu government’s health cuts and what they mean for everyday Victorians. Despite the appearances of government members at PAEC hearings, we have seen a litany of broken promises since that time.

A transcript of a hearing involving the Minister for Health shows that the minister spoke very proudly of the centrepiece of the Baillieu government’s health policy during the last election campaign — that is, to ensure that 800 new hospital beds would be delivered in its first term of government, 100 of which were to be provided in its first year of government. A year has gone by, and the promised 100 new beds have not been delivered.

Lisa Fitzpatrick, the Victorian secretary of the Australian Nursing Federation, was reported in the Age recently as saying:

So far, we’ve only heard of bed closures.

Honourable members interjecting.

Ms GRALEY — So you do not believe in what nurses say?

They do not talk about what happens in hospitals with any authority or due regard? They work hard looking after patients.

The Liberal Party also promised to improve access to elective surgery, yet the data in the 2011-12 Statement of Priorities — Victoria’s Hospital System shows Victorian hospitals will deliver 7751 less elective surgeries for this financial year. That is despite the minister’s assurances to PAEC that episodes of elective surgery will increase. Only today the Herald Sun carries the headline ‘1500 hospital beds closed in Victoria’ and the article contains a very interesting comment from the government spokesman, who could only say, as if it saying it often enough might make it come true, that the government promised 100 beds in the first year. We still do not have them.

The impact of the Baillieu government’s broken promises and cuts are very real for people wanting to get into hospital.

The lack of investment in health has forced the downsizing of some of our hospitals — for example, Box Hill Hospital has been forced to close 32 beds. The Australian Medical Association has taken the extraordinary step, which I could hardly believe could happen, of urging people to avoid Frankston Hospital because it has had to close 30 beds this year. If we had been re-elected, Frankston Hospital would have received extra beds last year. However, I do not think the Baillieu government really cares about Frankston; it has broken its promise to deliver 100 beds and Frankston Hospital has received no extra beds.

Members need only visit Casey Hospital in my electorate, because today it was announced that 34 beds there were closed. That is in one of the fastest growing areas of Melbourne, yet 34 beds have been closed. It is the baby boom capital of Melbourne where more babies are being born than anywhere else and yet new cots are not open for our babies. At PAEC the minister had the gall to say that Casey Hospital is at capacity — but how is he addressing that?

Ms Miller interjected.

Ms GRALEY — Yes, we built it. This is the former nurse who spent her time tearing down nurse posters outside her office — it is great to hear from the member for Bentleigh — —

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Weller) — Order! The member should resume her contribution on the report.

Ms GRALEY — I urge members to have a look at the PAEC report and see how shamefully this government has let down Victorians, particularly those who are ill, who are looking for the assistance of nurses and doctors, especially in a hardworking hospital performing under pressure like Casey Hospital. I recommend members read the transcripts and see how hollow the promises were from the Minister for Health.