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Question Time - Northern Beaches Hospital

Mr MICHAEL REGAN (Wakehurst) (12:04): My question is directed to the Minister for Health. With the statewide rollout of safe staffing levels for nurses and midwives beginning soon, does the Minister think it is reasonable for the northern beaches community to expect the same increase in staff resourcing at Northern Beaches Hospital as at other public hospitals, given that it is, in effect, our local public hospital? If so, will the Minister ensure that the Safe Staffing Levels Taskforce considers all available avenues to extend safe staffing levels to the Northern Beaches Hospital?

Mr RYAN PARK (KeiraMinister for Health, Minister for Regional Health, and Minister for the Illawarra and the South Coast) (12:05): I thank the member for Wakehurst. Yesterday I had a very productive meeting with him and the local Federal member. I will talk a little bit about his hospital because it is important. In opposition, there are not many good moments and not many moments that are seared into one's brain. Members opposite have three years to enjoy that.

The SPEAKER: The member for Wahroonga will come to order.

Mr RYAN PARK: But the members on this side who were here would remember that one day the former health Minister walked into the Chamber with a bill and a Dixer around the privatisation of five hospitals. From memory, they included Shellharbour, Wyong, a couple on the northern beaches—

Ms Jenny Aitchison: Maitland.

Mr RYAN PARK: Maitland. It was such a good idea that when that Minister left office, the new Coalition Minister scrapped that idea in about a week. It was a disaster. We will never be delivering a Northern Beaches Hospital contract the way it was delivered under the Coalition Government because, weirdly, we believe public hospitals should be properly funded by the public. I understand that the member for Wakehurst is a very fierce advocate for his community. I understand that health services are very important for the northern beaches.

We do have a contract where the public instrumentality purchases services off Healthscope, which runs the hospital. It is very important for people to understand that it runs the hospital. We purchase services to enable the public to utilise those services at the hospital. But Healthscope must continue to ensure that staffing is adequate there. We have seen increases in nursing staff there, and we have seen some reductions in nurse vacancies. We are rolling out safe staffing. The first two hospitals will be Liverpool and North Shore. We have started recruitment for those positions, and I will ask the taskforce that is looking at it to make sure that we meet that commitment as a result of the 2,480 positions that are coming online. The commitment is to roll out safe staffing, a ratio‑based system, at five or six EDs and then through a number of other areas of our hospitals. [Extension of time]

As a part of the taskforce that will guide the rollout of that reform—the largest reform in the way in which we staff hospitals in New South Wales—importantly, we will focus primarily on our public hospitals. We have more than 220 of them, so I have to focus on those. I acknowledge that the advocacy of the member for Wakehurst has been very strong, because it is important to acknowledge. Both he and I inherited a model that we would not be prepared to use again, but we have a model in place and we have to work with it. However, I will ask the taskforce looking at the rollout of the ratio‑based model of State staffing to have a look at the Northern Beaches Hospital to assess what we can do in that space. Importantly, that involves working with the private provider, Healthscope—not stepping into that role, but working with them. But my primary focus is on the public hospitals, because this rollout is critical. It will see a ratio of one to three in our emergency departments, which is major change in the way in which emergency departments are staffed.

To be honest, the change cannot come soon enough. We have been working closely with the Nurses and Midwives' Association. We know this reform is going to take time, and we know that there will be bumps along the way. There will be challenges along the way because we are essentially reinventing the way in which we staff hospitals, and that takes an enormous amount of effort. But I and Anthony Schembri and his team from the Northern Sydney Local Health District are prepared to work with the member for Wakehurst and the Federal member to see how we can deliver improved services and staffing for the community that I know the member for Wakehurst has been a tireless advocate for.

08 May 2024, 12:09

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