THE state Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, (NDL, October 25) is trying to create the impression her government is not cutting health spending.
Ms Skinner also claims I have acknowledged there is “no $3billion cut to the NSW health system”.
What I actually acknowledged, in a recent meeting with her, was that $2.3 billion of productivity savings in health were promised by the treasurer and the health minister to remain in the health system. The two issues are not the same.
The $3 billion is a combination of $775 million in labour-expenses cap savings, which are a definite removal of jobs and services, and $2.3 billion of cuts to existing jobs or services, which will be recycled into so-called front line services.
However, if not handled properly, in the health system redirected money can be a dangerous idea and create staffing and other support shortfalls, which compromise safe patient care. Done that way it is simply an exercise in shuffling money around to get more services at a lower staffing level.
Of particular concern are the state government’s $775 million labour expense-cap cuts to the health workforce, which definitely do mean cuts to jobs and health services. This is something Ms Skinner fails to mention in her letter.
To put it in simple terms: if you allocate about $18 billion to the health budget, as claimed by Ms Skinner, but try to get $21 billion worth of services with it, you have cut required spending by $3 billion. That is exactly the smoke and mirrors exercise the state government seems to be involved in at the moment.
What I have put to Ms Skinner is, if there is money to re-allocate, it should provide safe nurse/midwife-to-patient ratios in every NSW public hospital and community health service – which is not yet the case.
NSW NURSES AND MIDWIVES ASSOCIATION