Health crisis summit talks


HEALTH Minister John Hatzistergos yesterday pledged to get involved in the health crisis facing Lismore Base Hospital.

He has agreed to meet a delegation of community and medical representatives as soon as an appointment can be organised.

The Northern Star has asked to be part of the delegation to ensure the wider community is kept fully-informed on the State Government's response to the crisis.

The delegation will raise the issue of the $30 million funding shortfall to the region, long waiting lists, bed shortages, cancellation of surgery and old and faulty equipment.

These ongoing issues have led to many surgeons leaving or threatening to leave the public health system on the Northern Rivers.

Yesterday Mr Hatzistergos said he would meet a delegation which would include Ballina MP Don Page.

Mr Page said he had been frustrated by Premier Morris Iemma's refusal last Thursday to grant the community a meeting with him.

"The issue is so important he should have become involved, but at least we now have the Health Minister sitting up and taking notice.

"The current anaesthetists' dispute is only a small part of why the health system is in crisis," he said. "The underlying issues have been around for many years."

Mr Page said it has not been decided who would be on the delegation, but it would include himself and Lismore MP Thomas George.

A member of the LBH Medical Staff Council would be invited, along with Lismore mayor Merv King and Marshall Fittler, the Goonellabah man who called a public meeting on the health crisis. A date for the meeting is expected today.

Mr George spent part of yesterday getting fully briefed about the crisis, even though his office staff have kept him informed of all developments throughout his holiday break.

"I have been raising this issue of chronic underfunding for many years. It really does need to be urgently addressed," Mr George said.

"If the delegation is successful in securing more funding for the North Coast Area Health Service, that money must be expressly directed to Lismore Base Hospital and the other Richmond Valley hospitals which are the worst affected in the whole region by a lack of adequate funds."

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