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We deserve better than this from the Albanese Government

Federal Shadow Health Minister, Senator Anne Ruston, has joined calls for the Albanese Government to ensure equitable access to health and maternity services in regional communities including Geelong.

In a meeting with Epworth HealthCare board president Wendy Thorpe and acting CEO Luis Prado, Senator Sarah Henderson, member for Polwarth, Richard Riordan MP andSenator Ruston made strong representations to Epworth on the importance of accessible maternity services in the community.

“The Minister for Health has a workforce crisis on his hands and instead of working with his state counterparts, he is leaving many regional communities high and dry.I call on the State and Federal Labor Governments to stop ignoring the workforce crisis and start providing real and tangible solutions that support essential health services including in Geelong,” Senator Ruston said.

“From a local perspective, the Geelong region and south-west Victoria cannot afford to lose maternity services.It is critical that the Geelong community and surrounds retain adequate access to safe services that support the healthcare needs of their community, including obstetrics and paediatric services.”

“The Opposition recognises that many parts of regional Australia are dealing with workforce challenges, including for specialist doctors. It is incredibly disappointing that Health Minister, Mark Butler has completely ignored this issue, including the broader challenge of ensuring that regional Australians have equitable access to specialist medical care. Mr Butler does not appear to understand that private hospitals play a crucial role in alleviating the burden on our public health system. It is time that Mr Butler and the Albanese Government stop ignoring the health needs of rural and regional Australia,” Senator Ruston concluded.

Senator Henderson said was concerned that Epworth HealthCare was not being transparent with the community about the reasons for the proposed closure of the maternity unit.

“Epworth HealthCare’s failure to consider a number of positive solutions including conducting a proper recruitment process for midwives and paediatricians shows that Epworth is more concerned about maximising revenues than supporting women and families in our community,” Senator Henderson said.

“I also again raise serious concerns about the failure of Geelong region Labor MPs to stand up for local women and families on this critical health issue.”

“In defending her decision not to take any action, Corangamite MP Libby Coker has made a number of false claims* including that she has been assured that “Barwon Health and St John of God Hospital … [have] ample capacity to manage and support the small number of births currently handled at Epworth …”. Not only is this disputed by many doctors and midwives, Ms Coker has gone out of her way to mispresent the number of births at Epworth Geelong which were close to 600 in the past year, very similar numbers to St John of God,” Senator Henderson said.

Ms Coker also falsely claimed that Barwon Health’s Women and Children’s Hospital (to which the former Coalition government provided $50 million) is currently under construction. The facts are that this will be a hospital facility only, not a separate hospital, and while there has been demolition on the proposed site, construction has been dramatically delayed by the Andrews Government with the facility not scheduled for completion until 2029,” Senator Henderson concluded.

*As published on Ms Coker’s Facebook page, 23 January 2023

24 January 2023


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