Federal Labor Leader Kevin Rudd taking questions yesterday at Grafton Base Hospital.
Federal Labor Leader Kevin Rudd taking questions yesterday at Grafton Base Hospital.

Grafton $23m, Lismore $0

By Jennifer Huxley and Alex Easton GRAFTON will get $23 million for its hospital if Labor wins Government, but Kevin Rudd yesterday had nothing to offer the beleaguered Lismore Base.

The Labor leader announced the 'no-strings-attached' funding for Grafton Base Hospital yesterday during a brief stopover in the Page electorate's southern%city.

When Page Labor candidate Janelle Saffin was asked at the announcement about Lismore, she responded: "Today was about Grafton Base Hospital, and Mr Rudd is in Grafton to meet with the medical community and talk about Grafton."

When Mr Rudd was asked about reports in The Northern Star of a child being treated on the floor of the Base Hospital, he said: "I am not aware of the report you are speaking about, but State and territory administration of public hospitals has never been perfect. There are always problems and if the report that you are referring to is accurate then that's obviously a problem that needs to be dealt with."

Over the past five weeks, The Northern Star has reported on a teenage mum having to leave Lismore Base within hours of giving birth and of an 8-year-old boy examined on the hospital floor because of a lack of beds.

The Australian Medical Association and the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine have said overcrowding at Lismore Base was worse than Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital.

The $23 million offered to Grafton included $5 million for a new 'GP Super Clinic', and $18 million for upgrades.

Echoing Prime Minister John Howard's October 10 pledge, Mr Rudd said the $18 million was earmarked for the upgrading of Grafton's accident and emergency department, and three operating theatres.

However, while the Coalition's money depended on the State Government putting a board in charge of the hospital, Mr Rudd said his offer had 'no strings attached'.

North Coast Area Health Service chief executive Chris Crawford said Mr Rudd's funding would reduce pressure placed on Lismore Base by Clarence Valley patients.

"What this will do is allow GBH to do more in Grafton, because patients won't have to leave the area to get treatment, and it will allow Lismore more capacity to treat local patients," he said. Nationals candidate for Page, Chris Gulaptis, dismissed Mr Rudd's funding as a 'political stunt'.

"The PM's $18 million was announced before the election, the money is on the table now. All that is needed is for Iemma to form a local hospital board and we can start work tomorrow," he said.

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