Hands off our hospital

By SAM BENGERsamb@gladstoneobserver.com.au

SUGGESTIONS by Queensland's Health Minister that services in regional hospitals such as Gladstone's should be cut back have been slammed by patients and medical professionals.

Crohn's Disease sufferer Doug Macklin (pictured right) said cutbacks to hospital services in Gladstone would be "disastrous'' for both patients and staff.

Mr Macklin, who regularly visits Gladstone Hospital for treatment, said the treatment he received was of an "excellent standard'', but feared any cutbacks would mean hospital staff would be forced to work even longer hours, providing less services.

"They wouldn't be able to cope, they're flat out now and I don't think they should have any cutbacks ? it would be disastrous,'' he said.

Speaking about the State inquiry into the health system which started this week, Health Minister Gordon Nuttall said the public health system was facing cutbacks.

"We have as an organisation tried to provide as many services as we possibly can to regional and rural Queensland, obviously we've over-stretched ourselves in that regard,'' he said.

"I think that at the end of the day the scope of services that we provide may have to be curtailed somewhat - it'll depend on what the commission says.''

However, a statement released by the Minister's office late yesterday said pressures on the health system "may involve looking at services provided statewide'' and he had not made any specific comments about services or regions to be affected by the cutbacks.

Australian Medical Association (AMA) Gladstone representative Dr John Bird said cutbacks would be "the last thing regional Queenslanders need''.

"Rural people need services just as much as people in urban areas, as it is people travel to Brisbane for trivial reasons, and it could be done better, cheaper and more efficiently at a local level,'' he said.

Dr Bird said while a fundamental review of the health system was needed, cutbacks should be made across the board, instead of simply cutting off rural services.

"They should be cutting back on treatment to the wealthy and focusing on the poor, but the two-tiered system we have at the moment means what is provided to the rural population is unacceptable,'' he said.

"Queensland Health may be overstretching themselves in regional and rural areas, but if the solution is cutbacks to services, then the last place to look at cutbacks is rural and regional Queensland.

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