Federal member for New England Tony Windsor has accused state health minister Jillian Skinner of misleading state parliament and the public and member for northern Tablelands Richard Torbay of “going soft”.
Mr Windsor said yesterday Ms Skinner had admitted to media outlets during interviews as part of her visit to Tamworth and Werris Creek on Friday the NSW Coalition government “changed its priorities” when it removed Armidale hospital from being eligible for federal government health and hospital funding.
Mr Windsor said yesterday by making such admissions Ms Skinner had confirmed she mislead the NSW Parliament on September 15 last year when she said “Some unsuccessful projects were invited to resubmit ... and those invited to resubmit were sent a letter. The Commonwealth government did not offer Armidale hospital the opportunity to resubmit ... Feedback from the Health and Hospitals Funds Advisory Board is that a new Armidale application would not be proposed this time round”.
Mr Windsor said yesterday this was further confirmed through his freedom of information request where documents revealed in correspondence between Dr Mary Foley the Director General NSW Health and Hunter New England Local Health District chief executive officer, Mr Michael Di Rienzo.
In her letter to Mr Di Rienzo, Dr Foley summarised her refusal to submit the Armidale hospital application saying:
“While I understand your disappointment in this decision not to resubmit an application under this round, the development of these applications to the high level that has come to represent an acceptable standard by NSW Health does take considerable investment in time and resources at both the local health district and department. Given there is a relatively small amount of capital funding available nationally to both the public and private sector NSW Health will limit the number of projects so as not to unreasonably raise expectation both by the community and clinicians and to adequately resource those proposals going forward”.
Mr Di Rienzo however pointed out in his letter that “Only relatively minor adjustment is needed to the proposal and the need for this work continues to grow to improve the scope and provision of local health services”.
Mr Windsor said at the very least Mrs Skinner should apologise to the Parliament and the people of Armidale and district who missed out on the opportunity to access the federal money for a state hospital.
“Rob Oakeshott and I were able to negotiate $1.8 billion from the Health and Hospital Fund to be spent solely on country health services,” he said.
“Normally country areas received only 20 per cent of that fund.
“Tamworth hospital received $120 million from that fund but Armidale was taken off the NSW priority list at the political level even though it was the number one priority for Hunter New England Health.”
Mr Windsor was also critical of the member for Northern Tablelands, Richard Torbay over his handling of the funding of Armidale hospital.
“‘Richard the Independent’ would have been all over this shouting from the rooftops that Armidale had been dudded by the NSW Coalition government,” he said.
“But ‘Torbay the National’ has gone soft on the government, not wanting to rock those who he is now in bed with.
“He should be calling on the NSW government to fund the hospital as it is clear they did not want the federal government to fund it.”
Mr Windsor said it was time “Torbay the National” got back to being “Richard the Independent” and follow up this issue in the NSW Parliament.
“Armidale, Inverell and Glen Innes residents deserve action, not someone hiding behind Mrs Skinner’s skirt,” he said.