Hearing it straight from the bedside

After his momentous announcement on ratios opposition leader Luke Foley fielded questions and feedback from delegates determined to inform him of the realities on the ground in our public health and aged care systems.

How will you pay for ratios? Robyn Wormald, Bathurst Private Hospital asked Mr Foley how he would pay for his promises and whether it involve more privatisations.

Luke Foley: “Look, it’s a good question – The slogan I’m running on between now and the election is ‘schools and hospitals before stadiums’ and I mean it. We’re a prosperous state and a prosperous society and in the end government is about choices. Our priority will be the education of your children and the health of the entire community. One road, the West Connect is now costing $18 billion. There is a light rail allegedly going to appear sometime soon that’s probably going to cost double what we were told it would and deliver fewer people to the city by public transport. There are plenty of things being done now where billions are being squandered. We will get that under control and frankly it will involve not doing some things that the current Liberal and National government is doing. Like their new stadiums. Ultimately politics is about choices.

I’m for nurse-to-patient ratios. There is plenty of money to pay for this. You all understand this isn’t a small financial commitment to deliver safe staffing levels. You can’t do it all on day one. There will be a lot of work to be done in their implementation. But it is affordable and no it won’t be paid for by any privatisation. No privatisation in our public health system in a government led by me.”

Recruitment is not being implemented

Deb Smith, an NSWNMA Councillor from Auburn Hospital told Luke Foley that recruitment systems were not being implemented and asked for a commitment to look at the recruitment systems of the LHDs.

Luke Foley: “What’s going on at Auburn Hospital is a very good case study of what is going on in our health system at the moment. When the government has got the wrong priorities and is splurging billions of dollars on stadiums and the like and Auburn Hospital for the last two months of the year had to close surgery. On all of those issues like sick leave and rosters we’ll be listening to the voices of the Association about how we can improve that situation.”

Will you privatise community health services?

Lorna Scott, nurse practitioner (women’s health)  asked Mr Foley to promise “that community health services will not be privatised under your government”.

Luke Foley: “Yes. No privatisation in health. A very clear commitment.”

What about staff representatives on LHD boards?

Jeff Furolo, from community mental health said there is still a schism between clinicians and management as revealed by the Garling report years ago. He said there should be a role for elected staff representatives on local health boards “because conversations change when we are in the room”.

Luke Foley: “I see this in our public services across the board very often: this challenge of a clash of cultures between workers at the coalface delivering our public services and management.

“I’m not going to be an apologist for management but to be fair they are often under pressure from Treasury bean counters. That’s why it is vital that the perspective of workers who are delivering public services is heard.

“My initial reaction is that I’m attracted to that concept. In my past role with the Australian Services Union as a union rep – one of the unions that made up the ASU was the old water board union – for many years there was a worker-elected director on the board. And my experience was that worked very well and that is something we will look at.”

You won’t be told everything

Jason Mullavey from Nepean ED and patient flow warned the Labor leader that the LHDs don’t tell the Ministry of Health or the government everything about the realities in our hospitals, particularly on staffing.

Luke Foley: “Bricks and mortar are very important in our health system but the best hospitals in the world don’t amount to a hill of beans if you haven’t got the people on the inside to deliver the health care. We’ll respect the people in the Ministry of Health. We’ll respect the people in the local health district but we’ll be unapologetic about listening to the people in our public health system and our aged care system who deliver the best healthcare in the world. We’ll be guided by you.”

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