Yes, minister we do want to believe you. And yesterday’s confirmations from Health Minister Jillian Skinner that there would be no cuts to local frontline health jobs and statements that budgets for local health districts had in fact been increased may allay some fears.
Those undertakings came in the wake of other needling fears created in the wake of the budget estimates hearings.
In some cases, the media reports reached a Yes Minister-style farce, similar to the laughable television show of the same name.
Semantics has been at the heart of the debates this week, not least about beds – what constitutes a bed? – about the axe being taken to patient care in hospitals, and the future of nursing numbers.
Much debate centred around just who might get the chop and who was quarantined.
The undertakings from Mrs Skinner during a visit to Werris Creek and Tamworth are taken in the spirit they’ve been given.
We have faith in the minister while we acknowledge the pressure and the pain she might be under in relation to budgetary limitations, financial forecasting, and government pledges to trim what they have to.
We know the hospital system is sick – some might suggest terminal.
Mrs Skinner came to the health ministry with the O’Farrell election last year after some 13 years as a shadow minister in that ministry. She should know the internal operations of the ministry she now leads like a veteran nurse knows her way around the ward.
Yesterday Mrs Skinner said claims by unions that frontline jobs were due to be cut were untrue and the government had actually increased local health districts’ budgets to provide more frontline workers and services.
Just four weeks ago, Mrs Skinner said, savings would be directed to frontline work to admit 30,000 extra patients to public hospitals and treat 50,000 extra patients in emergency departments this financial year.
These statements might seem at odds with the directions being given to health districts to achieve some major savings.
Mrs Skinner was here for the official opening of the Werris Creek Multi-Purpose Service and to inspect redevelopment works at Tamworth hospital – facilities she says are all about bringing sophisticated health technology and clinicians to locals.
Union groups and local health workers want to know how many people will be working at them when the government acts on its nearly $3 billion in health cuts. We want to know that their future operations will have the staff to man them.