Australian healthcare will always be better under Labor - Transcript, Doorstop

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
DOORSTOP INTERVIEW
CAIRNS
WEDNESDAY, 17 APRIL 2019

SUBJECTS: The Liberals’ cuts to health, Labor’s Cancer Plan, the environment.

ELIDA FAITH, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR LEICHHARDT: Good morning. My name is Elida Faith and I’m the Labor candidate for Leichhardt. I’m here today with Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh and Queensland paramedic Jen Miran. We’re outside the Cairns Hospital. Our hospital has seen $7.2 million in cuts from this LNP Government. Let's not forget that the Cairns Hospital doesn't just serve as the Cairns and the hinterland, it reaches as far as the Torres Strait and the Cape. We have dedicated doctors, nurses, hospital workers and paramedics that are under-resourced and overworked. Now, I've been hearing a lot of stories, people have been sharing with me what their experiences have been and they have been absolutely heartbreaking and infuriating. It is not okay that a 69-year-old woman has to sit in the emergency department for three and a half hours with her 91-year-old mother. It is not ok that our paramedics are sitting in the halls of the emergency department, waiting to transfer their patients, instead of being out in the community saving lives.

Now I know that Warren Entsch has been here this morning and I hope he looked every single worker and patient in the eye and told them why tax cuts to the big end of town is more important than their jobs and quality health care at the hospital. Now we know the LNP, in order to give tax cuts to the big end of town, has to cut services by $40 billion a year every year by 2030. And I want to know from Warren Entsch today just how much of that $40 billion in cuts is going to come out of our Cairns Hospital, because our hospital cannot stand any more cuts. I'd like to hand over to Andrew now.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Thanks Elida, and thanks very much to everyone for being here today. My name is Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer. We saw last night Cairns Hospital go into code yellow. Code yellow means an internal emergency. It’s a code that's typically used when the hospital is engaging in disaster preparedness. It means patients sleeping in the halls. It means a crisis is afoot. It’s certainly not the first time the Cairns Hospital has been forced into code yellow. We've had increases in demand for the emergency department. We've seen emergency department emissions top 70,000 in the year 2017-18.

This is a hospital that is in demand and yet it's a hospital where there's been cuts made by the Liberals and Nationals. In the 2017-2020 funding agreement, they ripped $7 million out of Cairns Hospital. And we've seen across the board the Liberals cutting funding for hospitals. When they came to office with the horror 2014 budget, they had previously promised no cuts to health. But what was a list of ‘won’t do’ promises became a to-do list, with $57 billion cut from health in the 2014 budget. Now we have the revelation from the Australian Financial Review yesterday that in order to make their surplus targets, in order to provide those absurdly generous giveaways to multimillionaires and multinationals, the Liberals would have to cut $40 billion from health. That could mean more cuts for Cairns Hospital.

Labor has a different view. We've announced our $2.3 billion Cancer Plan, the biggest investment in Medicare since Bob Hawke created it. We've said for Cairns Hospital specifically we would invest $60 million making this a great training facility and we would invest $15 million in an upgrade of the emergency department, a project we would expect to roll out over the next one to two years, immediately taking the pressure off the emergency department.

Labor has made tough tax choices, closing tax loopholes that disproportionately benefit the top end of town. We're making changes to crack down on tax havens and multinational profit shifting. Right now two dollars in five of multinational profits passed through tax havens, the same places that are used by drug runners and extortionists, by some of the worst crooks in the world. We need to make sure that we're sending less money offshore to the Cayman Islands and keeping more money right here in Cairns Hospital. Only Labor will ensure we have a strong health system because only Labor will make the tough decisions on ensuring we have the revenue base to sustain that. I want to hand over now to local paramedic Jen Miran to talk specifically about the pressures that this hospital is under.

JEN MIRAN: Yes, we are currently experiencing high levels of ramping and this has been ongoing and it's becoming increasingly worse. So at this time we're focused on trying to find some solutions for these problems. The doctors and the nurses and paramedics have all had enough. We really can't - we cannot sustain what's happening behind those walls. What's happening behind those walls is unconscionable. It is a stress to the paramedics, to health care providers and to the patients. The patients are our main priority and we are not able to meet the demands of the community because our units are stuck in hospital. We have patients running down the hallway of the of the hospital in stretchers, not able to go anywhere. We are stuck. The hospital was not designed to have patients in hallways for hours at a time. Something needs to be done. This is an absolute crisis. We need help and we need it now.

JOURNALIST: What’s the worst thing you’ve seen?

MIRAN: Look, we've seen - we've seen patients separated from their family members at times when they're extremely scared for their own health and wellbeing. And also the family is scared, for their family members, but there's no beds put them in. So they have to resort to a hallway and the family cannot sit with them. On rare occasions we’re able to get family in there, but the hallway again - it's a health issue. If we needed to evacuate for an internal emergency, because of the fire, we are actually barricading that hallway with patients. We need help and we need it more.

JOURNALIST: And have you actually seen any issues where ambulances can't get out for jobs because they're stuck?

MIRAN: Absolutely. Look, we have [inaudible] often running jobs into Cairns. Koranda, the same. Myself, my unit was specifically designed to try and take patients to alternate pathways who didn't actually use the emergency department. I can't do my job, I'm spending too much time covering the areas that we can't release our resources from because they're tied up in the hospital. So I'm doing those jobs, the vendors are doing those jobs. Koranda is doing it - everyone is trying to support the community. But we need help. We need help [inaudible] people in the hospital to make some [inaudible] some very good decisions about what's going to be happening with our emergency department. We need solutions that are actually going to fix the problem. We need funding from the federal government now and the LNP have been so tight. They've been cutting resources and we are feeling the ramifications of that.

JOURNALIST: Are you aware of any instances where there has been a fatality as a result of under resourcing or how long do you think it could be before there is a case here?

MIRAN: It certainly is a very high potential and I would not want to speak specifically on certain cases, but I do know that the community is being heavily compromised and their emergency services by the actions that are taking place currently in the hospital.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

MIRAN: We do have the support of the state government. We have asked for them to try to supplement some of that funding that we've lost through the federal government.

JOURNALIST: Elida, the Coalition’s been saying you can’t actually point to where the $7 million cut is coming from [inaudible]

FAITH: Their $7.2 million cuts? Well, come on, they should know where it's coming from because they're the ones that are cutting the $7.2 million from the hospital. What I know is that our hospital is struggling, Jen has just talked about that. We have people telling us every single day that when they come to the hospital [inaudible] for hours on end. They're not getting quick service. The paramedics are suffering, patients are suffering.

JOURNALIST: Can you just clarify for us where it’s coming from?

FAITH: The cuts from the hospital? $7.2 million - I might let Andrew Leigh answer that.

LEIGH: So that's coming out of the 2017-2020 funding agreement. It’s down some $7.2 million. I'm worried about the impact of that on this hospital.

JOURNALIST: Does that specifically say Cairns Hospital?

LEIGH: That's specifically affecting Cairns Hospital right here-

JOURNALIST: But does it say, does it say Cairns Hospital?

LEIGH: It’s the funding that’s going to Cairns Hospital-

JOURNALIST: Does it say Cairns Hospital, though?

LEIGH: So this is the funding reduction for Cairns Hospital as a result of decisions made by the Liberals. The Liberals love saying that they're getting tough on spending. What that actually means for a hospital like this is that they are cutting resources for a hospital which last night went into code yellow.

[inaudible]

LEIGH: So it’s a four year period, 2017-2020.

JOURNALIST: And Warren Entsch says-

[interjection by camera crews]

JOURNALIST: Warren Entsch says that in terms of funding, it's not specifically allocating each hospital. He says it's all given the state government and then they choose what to do with it. So he's alleging that the management at the state level. What’s your response?

LEIGH: It's extraordinary that the Liberals will always look for someone else to blame. It's always someone else's fault. They’ll make the savage cuts to hospitals, they’ll make the savage cuts to schools. They’ll pat themselves on the back for making what they say are ‘tough decisions’. But then when it actually reveals itself on the ground, when we hear that a hospital which last night went to code yellow, when you're hearing directly from Jen about the impact this is having on the health, then they run away from the implications of their decisions. Their own Budget papers demonstrate that in 2014, they tried to rip out $57 billion from hospitals. The Australian Financial Review and Grattan Institute analysis shows very clearly that there’s $40 billion in secret cuts yet to come.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

LEIGH: These are federal cuts we're talking about. These are significant cuts that have occurred and we're making a choice in this election between tax loopholes and health spending. Labor is willing to close tax loopholes. We're willing to close down particular tax arrangements used disproportionately by multimillionaires. The Coalition isn't willing to make those tough decisions on tax and that means there's less spending on hospitals. It means they can't back our cancer plan. It means they can't back the leukaemia announcement that we made today. It means that Australians will get worse health care under the Coalition than under Labor, because only Labor will engage in the serious tax reform required to fund the Cairns Hospital.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

LEIGH: If we're in office, there will better health care agreements offered than what we’re seeing from the LNP.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

LEIGH: We'll be providing more resources to hospitals than the LNP would otherwise.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

LEIGH: It’s funded through closing tax loopholes. You know, we make a choice in Australia. We either choose to be the country with the biggest tax loopholes in the world or the country with the best health care system in the world. I know what I'd like to see, I know what Elida and Jen would like to see and I know what my kids would like to see. They don't want us bragging to the rest of the world that this is a country that makes it really easy to ship money off to the Caymans. They want us bragging to the rest of the world that when you get sick in Australia, it doesn't make you poor.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

FAITH: You know, this - Far North Queensland and the seat of Leichhardt is huge. Like I said before, the Cairns Hospital doesn’t just cover Cairns and the hinterland. It goes right up to the Cape, the Torres Strait and the outer islands. This is one of the reasons why we're really proud to say that we’ve invested $60 million into seeing this university hospital become a reality. Because we want to not just attract the best healthcare providers, nurses and doctors, we want to keep them here so we can start putting more resources and studies into tropical health. You know, we’ve got [inaudible], heart disease, diabetes. So we know people in Cairns are fed up with the chaos they’re seeing from this LNP Government and they are truly concerned about cuts to our Cairns Hospital.

JOURNALIST: Did you personally encourage those protesters to come along with their placards?

FAITH: I just arrived. I could not see what was going on, so no. Most definitely not.

JOURNALIST: Did you know that they were going to be here?

FAITH: I knew that they possibly could, because I think with any type of media there are always some protesters. Always prepare for protesters.

LEIGH: If I could just add to that - Warren Entsch should have known that they were going to be there. This can't be the first time that Mr Entsch has been confronted by people in his own electorate who are angry that he’s supported a government that’s ripped $7 million from the Cairns Hospital. If he’s surprised by that, I've got a bridge he might like to buy. It is extraordinary that he is shocked when his own constituents complain about his own Government's cut to their own hospital.

JOURNALIST: We’ve had ambulance ramping under the Federal Labor Party. What's going to change if Labor has power again?

LEIGH: The past Federal Labor Government significantly increased funding to Cairns Hospital by more than $10 million. Judge us by our track record, just as you should judge the Liberals by theirs.

JOURNALIST: So why wasn't funding increased ten years ago?

LEIGH: It was. Under Labor, we significantly increased funding to Cairns Hospital-

JOURNALIST: It didn’t fix the situation though.

LEIGH: Well, we've seen significant cuts and this is why you need a Shorten Labor Government in order to make sure that Cairns Hospital is able to deal with the significant increase in demand, but also to ensure that this is an institution which is not just keeping up but moving ahead, engaging in that tropical medical research that you can get in a training facility working in conjunction with the local university.

JOURNALIST: So will we no longer ever have ambulance ramping if Labor has power?

LEIGH: You're going to see shorter wait times under Labor. We’ve seen a blowout in elective surgery wait times under the Coalition - a 10 per cent blowout right across the board. That means people are waiting longer for knee surgeries, for hip surgeries, for cataract operations-

JOURNALIST: Would you be willing to guarantee that there won’t be more ambulance ramping?

LEIGH: I can guarantee that the Cairns Hospital will be in better shape under Labor than under the Coalition.

JOURNALIST: So that’s no guarantee [inaudible]?

LEIGH: There's always going to be unexpected events that hit a community. But what we're seeing from the Coalition is a code yellow as a result of mismanagement, not as a result of an external disaster event. Code yellow is often used when there's a severe weather event, for example - something out of the control of the government. That’s not what we're seeing here. We're seeing a code yellow as a result of the decisions that are being made by the Morrison Government.

JOURNALIST: If there was [inaudible] and ramping under Labor and there is under the Coalition, it that maybe demonstrative of the fact that it doesn't really matter who’s in power - there’s just going to be problems?

LEIGH: You've heard from Jen that it does matter. You see a difference when you look at the funding agreements and you also see difference when you look at the outcomes for patients, when you look at the waiting times. Labor has prioritised health. In Bill Shorten's budget reply it was a cornerstone of our announcements and we can only do that because we have the resources as a result of closing down tax loopholes. By closing down tax loopholes we're able to invest in a healthcare system, we're able to ensure that no longer are we unique in the world in providing a cheque to shareholders. We’d close down tax loopholes and the multinational tax lurks. That means we're able to invest more in hospitals.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] Can you please get you to respond to claims that environmental [inaudible]

FAITH: We live in one of the most beautiful parts of Australia and I’m a local mum, I've been here 20 years. My daughter was born here so she's born and grown up alongside the Great Barrier Reef and some of the beautiful world heritage listed areas. I'm very passionate about the environment and Labor has some really great environmental policies. If we're successful at the federal election, next federal election, we're going to restore the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to its 2012 status. If we're successful at the federal election, we are going to ban super trawlers fishing in our [inaudible] fishing areas. We have got some really great environmental policies and I'm really proud of that, especially because of where I live. I've been out talking to people now for a really long time and you know, environment is always one of their most important priorities, alongside health, alongside education and the security of work.

ENDS

Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra.


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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | Andrew.Leigh.MP@aph.gov.au | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.