Hospital allocated another three beds

By MEL MARTIN

OF the record New South Wales health budget of $10.9 billion, North Coast Area Health Service was allocated $542 million, an increase of $44 million from last year.

As part of the budget, the NSW Government will fund 26 additional permanent beds and community aged-care places at North Coast hospitals.

The Coffs Harbour Health Campus, which was allocated one bed in early May, was allocated another three in this Budget, while the North Coast Community Aged Care was allocated 16 overall.

Coffs Harbour will receive the promised $7 million for radiotherapy services, as well as $1.5 million for 20 additional longer stay mental health beds at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus.

"The only ray of light in the Budget is continued funding for the radiotherapy unit of some $7 million, but the completion of the radiotherapy unit will be 12 months behind the date originally promised by the then health minister, Craig Knowles," the member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser, said.

"Yet again, no recurrent funding has been made available to open the 20 closed beds at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus, and no funding is in the budget for the long-awaited new police station and court house in Coffs Harbour."

Out of $22 million in new mental health funding, provisions were made for the expansion of the psychiatric rural emergency response model currently trialled on the Mid North Coast following an evaluation of the service.

All up across the State, $1.5 billion was allocated to emergency and elective surgery, while the Budget allocated 800 hospital beds at a cost of $227 million.

NSW Health Minister Morris Iemma said that $3 billion had been allocated to improve health services in rural and regional areas this year.

"This Budget provides the largest ever enhancement for frontline services over and above the cost of wages for health care professionals and medical technology," he said.

While the Australian Medical Association (NSW) welcomed some inroads, it has criticised the Government for neglecting issues like mental health and workforce issues.

"We welcome any increases, particularly in the areas of increased hospital beds, elective surgery, mental health and capital works," the president, John Gullota, said.

"But we now have to address the most critical areas of health delivery ? workforce issues relating to doctors. Doctors take a long time to train and there is still no long-term planning."



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