Doorstop Interview: $8 million radiation therapy centre for the new Eurobodalla Hospital; teacher industrial action; NSW state election


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FIONA PHILLIPS, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR GILMORE: Hi everyone, Fiona Phillips, the Federal member for Gilmore and I am delighted to be here today in Moruya at the site of the new Eurobodalla Hospital with an absolutely terrific health announcement. I am of course joined with me today by Chris Minns the New South Wales Labor leader, Ryan Park, the Shadow Minister for Health. We’ve got Cathie Hurst here, a local cancer patient and of course, Dr. Michael Holland, the wonderful new Member for Bega.

And look I’m delighted to be here today. We know that if you need treatment for cancer as we’ll hear from Cathie shortly as well, that you have to travel very long distances, either to Canberra to Sydney, or to Nowra. So it’s been like that for many, many years. It’s not fair on cancer patients. We should have equitable access to cancer treatment, not only for cancer patients, but also for their families as well. We know that in the last – before the last election, the government actually committed to a radiation therapy centre here, but they have not delivered it. It is absolutely shameful that that has not happened. And I am here today to say that an Albanese Labor Government will commit to an $8 million radiation therapy centre for the new Eurobodalla Hospital right here in Moruya. It’s absolutely imperative that cancer patients have good access to cancer treatment locally. It’s one of the many things that local people have told me over the years and as the Federal Member for Gilmore and as a re-elected federal member for Gilmore and then under an Albanese Labor Government, we will make sure that that radiation therapy centre is so rightly provided for this area. I’ll just hand over to Chris Minns.

CHRIS MINNS, NSW LABOR LEADER: Well, thanks so much Fiona. It’s wonderful to be here with you and with Cathie and with Michael and of course, Ryan, for this important announcement. I think this is a huge key stone announcement for the Gilmore electorate for the Federal Election which of course is just three weeks away.

We’ve known for a long time that Fiona is a passionate advocate for health services in regional New South Wales. We also know that the community down here pay taxes and they deserve their share of infrastructure. This is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to the health and welfare of the people of the South Coast. And I think many people will take that into consideration when they cast their vote in three weeks’ time. Think about this for cancer patients in the Eurobodalla, upwards of 2000 people could be diagnosed a year, they have to travel two and a half to three and a half hours to get life saving treatment to keep themselves alive, to battle this debilitating illness.

Now to do that in a regular fashion, perhaps once a week when you feel nauseous, when you’re overpowered with sickness, when you’re suffering from the side effects of actually having the treatment, to jump on a public train and battle closed environments as you come back to your community means what we all suspect the health outcomes for regional communities worse than metropolitan areas like Sydney, like Wollongong and like Newcastle, we can and we must do better.

But the way to do better is to make sure the critical capital infrastructure is put in place on day one. Now what the Albanese Opposition is doing and what we hope to be a Federal Labor Government is doing is saying if you’re going to build a major public hospital in the Eurobodalla, get it right from day one. Taxpayers aren’t stupid the people down here understand that if major infrastructure is going to be put into a community like this on the site behind us, the chances that they’ll come back a decade or two later, when the community has grown to put this important infrastructure in place is small. Let’s put the infrastructure in now when the building is actually going up, when the community needs it.

The second part of this as Ryan would know from an Upper House Inquiry, that the impacts and consequences of those receiving regional health care is nowhere near the standard that we need for a major state and country like Australia, we need to do better. Now that means infrastructure in places like the Eurobodalla, we’re confident that can happen but it requires the kind of investment that we’re seeing from an Albanese Opposition.

As I said the numbers are stark this community this hospital will service 80,000 people, up to 2000 people may be diagnosed with cancer a year, the centre once it’s built will treat 700 people every year. It needs support and coordination from the New South Wales Government. It needs capital infrastructure from the federal government and it needs passionate advocacy from a fantastic local MP in Fiona.

She needs to keep working for this community, and I’m confident once this announcement is percolating through the community, it will demonstrate once and for all what a fantastic local MP and how passionate and empathetic Fiona is to the electorate of Gilmore. Ryan.

RYAN PARK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks Chris. Tomorrow, the landmark inquiry, an inquiry that Labor fought so hard to establish in rural and regional health care will hand down its report. One of the key findings no doubt will be that those living in rural and regional areas face big financial challenges far greater than anywhere else in New South Wales when it comes to accessing cancer treatment. And that is why I’m so proud to have worked so closely with a champion local federal MP in Fiona Phillips, a woman who has been a tireless advocate for this community to improve health care in this community. Someone who I speak to regularly about improving health services in this area, to make sure that this announcement will ensure that I’m Albanese Labor government can deliver the cancer services that the people of Eurobodalla and people in living in regional and rural New South Wales need and deserve.

We’re also very lucky to have a very tireless advocate in Dr. Michael Holland Someone who has hit the ground running since he’s been elected in the by-election and someone who knows from firsthand experience the challenges that people like Cathie and those accessing cancer treatment experience every day.

I’ve been fortunate to sit with so many people over the last two years as the Rural and Regional Health Inquiry travelled across New South Wales, and to hear the stories from people like Cathie and others about the sheer challenges they face, the disruption to the lives they face, and the stress they face on top of their diagnosis to access treatment is simply heartbreaking. And that’s why when there was an opportunity to get this right, we’ve all advocated. I want to thank also my leader, Chris Minns for been an absolute champion advocate for the people of this area from day one. He’s someone who has backed in the health needs of our region and made sure that it’s a priority for us, but also making sure that he’s working with Federal Labor to deliver the infrastructure needed and the cancer services that the people of the Eurobodalla need and deserve.

It’s a pretty simple message. If you want better health services in the Eurobodalla Fiona Phillips has to be the candidate you vote for. She’s got a track record and working with Dr. Holland, she can continue to improve health services for these growing region and a region who continue to need and deserve a lot better.

DR MICHAEL HOLLAND, MEMBER FOR BEGA: Thanks everyone. It’s a great day for the South Coast of New South Wales to have this commitment by the Federal Labor Party and now also the New South Wales Labor Party to a radiation oncology service in the new Eurobodalla Hospital wish will be built just next door to us. This service just doesn’t benefit the Eurobodalla, it’s a service for the whole far South Coast of New South Wales, one of seven areas that was identified three years ago to benefit from radiation oncology. Five out of the seven receive those services and we missed out. So that’s that and the current inquiry into Rural, Regional & Remote Health Care is an indictment of the current New South Wales Government in providing care to rural areas.

Fiona Phillips has been an advocate for this area ever since I’ve known her. We’ve spoken on this for five years or so. Her very first inaugural speech in the national Commonwealth Government was to recognise the development of this new Eurobodalla hospital. She’s committing, she’s committing and she’s committing again to it, and the Albanese government will deliver it when we’re – when the current Labor Party wins the next election. And when we follow on next year, we’ll have two Federal and State governments to implement this. So as everyone has said, it’s the patients, is as all this is about. There’ll be hundreds of people that benefit from this new development, people that are driving from as far as Eden to up to Milton, Ulladulla to get anywhere from two and a half to four hours for radiation oncology. These services need to be provided locally. It should not have been neglected over the past few years. This is a development that needs to be provided, built over there in the near future. Fiona Phillips will provide it when she’s elected and with the support of Chris Minns and Ryan Park, it will be delivered by us as well, thank you.

CATHIE HURST, PATIENT: Hi, my name is Cathie and I’m a cancer patient. I am so thrilled to hear the news today about the money being poured by Labor if they win the next election. If only it had been earlier, I could have avoided driving up to Sydney – four and a half hours, five hours to spend a week having radiation treatment, coming home on weekends, going back again in the next week, and doing this for six weeks. It wasn’t so bad for me. I was in a lucky position of being able to travel by plane and things like that or driving but a lot of people out there can’t. They’re young mothers with children we’ve got to leave behind. They’re devastated because they’ve been told they’ve got cancer and they have to get in a car, leave their children, maybe leave their jobs, not knowing if they’ll get paid, the time they’re away, and to be able to just come here – for 15 minutes, which is all radiation takes for most most people, 15 minutes a day and go home. How much easier would that be? And how much better do they feel when they’re not on their own? Especially during the COVID, where you couldn’t actually have people with you. It was it was a terrible time for me and so many other people like me, and the future looks bright, if we get this money and we get services here. It’s a great site, and it should be built for what’s needed in the future. And that’s what I hope to happen. Thank you.

JOURNALIST: Eight million dollars, what are we getting for that eight million dollars? What does it include? Is it just the building or does it come with batteries so to speak?

PHILLIPS: So it’s broken up with $5 million for the actual infrastructure. So that’s through the Regional Cancer Care Program, and an additional $3 million for the actual linear accelerator.

JOURNALIST: And is it licensed for Medicare, will it be licensed for Medicare because there’s one at Nowra which doesn’t have a license.

PHILLIPS: So that’ll be another issue that we’ll look at, at this stage we’re announcing the $8 million for the infrastructure and the linear accelerators.

JOURNALIST: So you’re looking at a license Medicare license, why are you looking for a Medicare license and how long will that take?

PHILLIPS: Well I think today it’s important that we have made a commitment, $8 million for radiotherapy, radiation therapy centre here for the new Eurobodalla hospital, that is a significant announcement to support cancer patients and that will be obviously working in conjunction with the state government as well.

HOLLAND: The process that the previous application went through in 2019, there was $64 million on a bipartisan commitment by both federal parties to 13 regional radiation oncology services. So that comes down to approximately $4 million per place. Of  NSW there was seven areas like Grafton, Kempsey, Griffith, they received approval for these and they’re going ahead with it. Our community was knocked back because of the so called low number of population. Now you can’t tell me the Grafton, Kempsey, Griffith are any smaller than the Eurobodalla and the Bega combined and going up to Milton Ulla-Dulla who probably benefit as well. The process is sent out to tender so the tendering process was knocked back by the southern NSW Local Health District on the basis of numbers and on the basis that despite the private tenders, offering to bulk bill they would not pay went up to $1.5 million per year for those patients that were still being sent away. Now that’s a false economy, those patients still cost that amount of money, if not more to go away. So the private providers will tender, I’ve spoken to several of the providers, they think it’s a no brainer, it should be a done deal because they provide these services in areas of equivalent size, if not smaller, so it will go to a tender process, and there will be private contribution and that’s where the licensing comes in. And these people they’re not in it for money they’re in it to provide the services when you speak to the radiation therapy groups that’s what they want, they want these services in rural areas.

JOURNALIST: I’ve got a question about the hospital. With the issue of the Moruya bypass not being resolved yet where it’s going to go. They said at the consultation down at the markets recently that the budget for the roundabout comes out of the hospital budget and not out of the transport budget. So I’m just wondering if that has been factored into the rest of the budget for the hospital?

HOLLAND: Unfortunately, since my nomination and election, a cone of silence has descended a bit around me on these issues. The fact is that everyone knows that there are two options going on here, the orange route to the east of us, the purple route to the west of us. There are arguments about both routes, either route has to really be the most economical and the route that provides the least social and environmental impact on our community. Now, when you’re looking at a project that might have up to a cost of $750 million, I think basically transport NSW can develop a roundabout off their own back rather than subtracting from our hospital. Enough things are subtracted from this hospital as it is, the amount that’s contributed to the hospital will give us what we want in terms of beds and services, but the radiation oncology will fit in that space over there. Just as there is space for private hospital there is space for educational facilities and there is space for resident carers accommodation.

JOURNALIST: If you can answer the question with the hospital and this facility coming together as one, like do we have to wait for the hospital to be built first? Do we have to wait for the hospital?

PARK: This will be part of the overall hospital development, that obviously the sequencing of that is in the process of getting out worked out now. The libs have only just got the secured the land, so Andrew Constance is very late to the party. But we will make it an absolute priority to ensure that as the hospital gets built, this gets built and if we can bring cancer treatment here earlier, we will bring cancer treatment here earlier. We have heard and listened that this is a priority as part of the project. We are the ones who have said that we will do it and deliver it and we are also the ones who give a commitment that we will try and bring this on as quickly as possible.

JOURNALIST: Just about the teachers today and what Labor’s response is to that action?

MINNS: Look, it’s an important issue for the millions of people that live in NSW at the moment industrial action from teachers in public schools. The truth of the matter is inflation is running hotter and higher than at any point in decades. The projected inflation rate for Sydney, for example, could hit 6.9% for one financial year. It means a real wage cut for tens of thousands of people that work in the public sector, and of course those in the private sector as well. Now, it’s very important to know that the NSW Government has capped wages at 2.5% notwithstanding the fact that we’re seeing huge increases in the cost of living. Petrol has gone up 30%, housing costs have gone up 20%, rents gone up 15% fresh food up 10%. Everything is going up in NSW, except the ability to pay for it and the NSW Premier seems intent on not allowing wages to increase. Now, I’ve said from the beginning if there’s going to be changes in relation to the wage cap, let the teaching workforce know about it before industrial action takes place. No one wants strikes, no one wants industrial action, but it does require consultation and negotiation between the government and their workforce. That’s not happening in NSW at the moment and I think it’s a mixture of ideology and inexperience that’s preventing a breakthrough in these negotiations and as a result, we have industrial unrest. The government must sit down with their workforce and explain what their plans are for the wages cap so that teachers, nurses, paramedics, police officers know what they can expect to receive from their employer over the next two years. I saw in the paper recently that the government said to their own workforce, they were trying to hint that there will be changes in relation to the wages strategy When the budgets handed down in June. You can’t pay your mortgage on a hint. Frontline workers and those in the private sector must know what the government’s intentions are. Let’s do everything possible to reduce industrial tension and also to do something about the rampant cost of living not just in Sydney, but right across NSW.

JOURNALIST: You’ve been down here a few times with Fiona, you heavily campaigned with Mr. Holland behind you, Mr. Holland was your candidate for Bega. Have you been you know, checking other CVS around for say the south coast and Kiama to build a good team for the 2023 election?

MINNS: I’ll take the second part of the question first, we will definitely be building a good team for the 2023 election. Look, it’s obviously a competitive process and I admire voters on the NSW south coast, they’ve gone through the Edan-Monaro by-election, council elections, the Bega by-election, just over the border, the Monaro by-election, and of course now the federal election, and not too far away is the NSW State election. So it’s really the epicentre of democracy down here on the NSW, south coast, but we like it. We love engaging with the local community, we think it’s important to understand the issues on the ground. My seat is in Kogarah, I’m not a regional MP, there’s no real way other than to come and listen directly to businesses, those that are going through cancer treatments like Kathy, local Chambers of Commerce about what the challenges facing these local communities are, and how we can come up with solutions to make the state better not just to criticize Andrew Constance or Dominic Perrottet, but actually put solutions on the table to lift this state up, make NSW the best state in the country.

JOURNALIST: But you need good candidates to win seats. So are you looking for good candidates to win those seats, those crucial seats in Kiama and the south coast given that Shelley Hancock is now retiring? It’s up for grabs.

MINNS: I think every seat regardless of the margin is important. We want to compete all over the place. I’m going to suspend all dialogue about pre selections for the next state election. I’m going to let the voters get through the Federal Election first and then no doubt we’ll be off to the races as we head into the state election in March 2023. And I think, Michael, one of those big points, one of the big parts of the state election will be cost of living as it is in the federal election. If you look at the situation in NSW today, this state is the highest taxing state of any jurisdiction in any part of the country, $4,700 on average for every man, woman and child, that’s the tax that everybody pays each year to the NSW Government. It’s gone up 10% In the last 12 months, way higher than inflation and way higher than the government’s wages cap. Is it any wonder that frontline public servants those that work in the private sector and regular mums and dads are saying it’s very difficult even with two full time salaries, to pay the mortgage to get the kids through school. The NSW Government are trying to have it both ways holding down wages while –

JOURNALIST: If she loses the next election will you be asking Fiona to run for the seat of the South Coast? She’s a good candidate.

MINNS: Fiona is a is a fantastic, fantastic federal member, and I’ve got every confidence –

JOURNALIST: So are you ruling that out you won’t ask Fiona should she lose?

MINNS: I expect that she’ll be the member for Gilmore. We don’t want to put the cart before the horse. But she’s fighting every single day for this community and I think this $8 million announcement is indicative of her passion for healthcare, her commitment to the local community. And there’s something else that Michael and I often talk about with Fiona, she’s got enormous empathy and a big heart and what I mean by that is a lot of people in politics get cynical or jaded. You’ve got a local MP that fights every single day for the local community, people come through her electorate office, they talk about cancer services, they talk about frontline health services, they need help from the Commonwealth Government. You’ve got a local MP that just seriously never quits.

Thanks, everybody. Appreciate coming out. Excellent


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