State Matters with Steve Cansdell

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Doctors slam Labors pre-election waiting list fiddles

How much more evidence does the Carr/Iemma Labor Government need before it accepts that its chronic underfunding of health services in our region has left our hospitals in a state of deep crisis?

Grafton is still waiting for the $7 million worth of operating theatres Labor promised before the 2003 election and Campbell Hospital in Coraki is about to feel a new kind of Labor pain with permanent closure after a century of service to the lower Richmond community.

Last week we had doctors protesting in the streets of Lismore and on Monday we had the president of the NSW branch of the Australian Medical Association accusing the NSW Government of fiddling hospital waiting lists for political gain ahead of the state election on March 24 next year.

Dr Andrew Keegan confirms waiting lists have fallen markedly before several previous elections, only to surge again after polling day.

The concern the AMA has in relation to the sustainability of the reduction of waiting lists across NSW is just that, whether or not it is sustained after the election, he says.

The comments come after North Coast Area Health Service mandarin and chief Labor Government apologist Chris Crawford began boasting the Labor Government had just managed to cut local waiting lists for elective surgery.

Problem is Labor made the same claim before the 1999 and 2003 elections, only for waiting lists to soar again after Labor was re-elected.

If Labor can find the resources to cut waiting lists before elections, why cant it maintain the momentum after polling day?

The NSW Liberal/Nationals have obtained official NSW Government waiting lists statistics under freedom of information laws.

Even with the NSW Governments pre-election surgery rush under way, many more local patients are on the waiting lists for elective surgery now, compared to when Labor came to power in 1995, on a promise to halve those lists.

After 12 years of Carr/Iemma Labor, waiting lists have risen from 186 to 273 at Grafton Hospital (up 47 per cent) and from 463 to 1263 (up 172 per cent) at Lismore Hospital. Labor has also given Lismore the unenviable record of having more patients on its long term waiting list (one year or more) than any other hospital in NSW.

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