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Steve Price, Inside the News, Sky News, 8 February 2023

STEVE PRICE: Onto the more serious issues now, I want to bring in Senator Sarah Henderson. She’s a Victorian senator, as we know, a Liberal senator. I want to talk through this situation at Geelong’s Epworth Hospital. Now, the maternity ward there is due to close on the 31st of March. Now there’s been a very strong local campaign to stop that from happening. It was led actually by that Geelong warrior from the AFL, Joel Selwood, and his wife, who is about to give birth. Senator Henderson has been campaigning very strongly to not have this happen and joins us now. Is the, is the cause lost, Senator?

SENATOR HENDERSON: Well Steve, good afternoon and great to join you. And it’s a shocking time for the people of Geelong and south-west Victoria, after learning of the closure of Epworth Geelong’s maternity unit. And I gave a speech in Parliament today, reiterating the utter shame on both the federal and state Labor governments Steve.

It is an absolute disgrace that Richard Marles, the Deputy Prime Minister no less, failed to stand up for women and families and babies in our region. He ran around with Joel Selwood for years, milking him for every photo opportunity he could get through the Geelong Cats, of-course, when Joel was captaining the Cats. And when Joel and his wife, Brit, called out for help saying they were really scared about the prospect of not being able to give birth as they planned, Richard Marles and Libby Coker turned their back on the Selwoods and on hundreds of other women and families across our region.

And Steve, I might also add that apart from Mark Butler and the Prime Minister and the Premier of Victoria turning their back on Epworth, Epworth’s behaviour has also been disgraceful. They ran a sham consultation and recruitment process. They ran down the maternity unit. There is so much anger in our community, but most of all towards our local Labor MPs who did absolutely nothing to stand up for this vital health service, which of-course is so important in taking pressure of our public health system. Private and public health services work hand in hand. So all in all and utter disgrace from Richard Marles and Libby Coker and Labor.

STEVE PRICE: Doctors, nurses, community groups all desperately tried to keep the maternity ward open and they failed. Is there, have you heard one real reason that we can believe as to why this was going to shut? I mean, is it just a matter of economics for Epworth, is that what’s happened?

SENATOR HENDERSON: Absolutely. They’re interested in cost-cutting, and that has been confirmed to me privately. I actually reported the Epworth to the ACCC for misleading and deceptive conduct. I believe they may have breached the law, Steve. Not only did they mislead the two obstetric practices which set up there, they lured them into five-year lease agreements and failed to tell them that the closure of the maternity unit was a possibility. They also ran at least one bogus job advertisement that I know of and of-course, if that’s proven, that’s a breach of the law. So they deliberately set about running down the maternity unit, led by some of the best obstetricians, not just in our region, but across Victoria. 600 babies are born at Epworth every year, and that was increasing some 20 per cent a year in the fastest growing region in our country.

So this is a really dark time for our region, and it comes on top of all the other ways in which the federal Labor government is hurting our health system, slashing public hospital funding, cutting Medicare rebates for mental health and telehealth, and of course breaking its promise to deliver 50 urgent care clinics, including in the Geelong region and in other parts of Victoria, within 12 months. So all in all from the Albanese Labor Government, it’s been a disgrace – the way in which they have run down our health services across this country. Mark Butler has turned his back on the desperate workforce needs in the health sector. And to see Labor MPs and these governments do sweet FA, I’m sorry, I’ve used that expression in its short form, but I’m so angry, Steve.

And, and this comes after Daniel Andrews set up a fake sod turn before the election, claiming that they were going to build the Barwon Women and Children’s Hospital facility, when in fact that hasn’t even been designed. The Commonwealth – we put $50 million into that new facility – that won’t be ready until 2029.

So again, we have had a run down in vital maternity and children’s services with very, very little support from the Andrews Government, which of-course has put this facility on the back burner. I am just, as I say, I am so angry.

STEVE PRICE: Sarah Henderson, thanks for your advocacy. Thank you very much. That’s Senator Sarah Henderson.

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