Health scare for Health Minister
By HEATH GILMORE AND ALEX EASTON
FEDERAL Health Minister Tony Abbott was hospitalised at St Vincent's Hospital in Lismore last night for an emergency procedure to remove a kidney stone.
Page MP Ian Causley remained with Mr Abbott, who was forced to cut short campaigning on the Northern Rivers because of the complaint.
A spokeswoman for St Vincent's Private Hospital confirmed late yesterday that the Liberal politician was having the emergency procedure.
However, she referred all further inquiries to the Minister's staff.
The ultra-fit Health Minister had been noticeably distracted during his swing through the Page and Richmond electorates yesterday.
Media adviser Kate Jordan said last night Mr Abbott was fine, but he was in a great deal of pain from the kidney stone.
"He's still opening doors for us," she said.
"His wife is not coming up and is staying home with the girls. He'll be going home in the morning."
Mr Abbott had completed a Coalition announcement at the Lismore Base Hospital when he pulled out of his later engagements at Nimbin.
He immediately admitted himself to the hospital's emergency department, where he remained until being transferred to the private facility.
It has been a week of public and private pain for Mr Abbott.
Last week he had been criticised for fumbling with the truth after an interview on the ABC's Lateline program about a meeting with Sydney's Cardinal George Pell, who had criticised Labor's policy of redirecting $520 million in funding from Australia's richest private schools to poorer non-government schools.
Adding to his woes, a member of the satirical program, The Chaser Decides, dressed as Cardinal Pell, followed him during his campaigning for Richmond MP Larry Anthony yesterday morning.
Before his untimely admission to hospital, Mr Abbot managed to announce plans at Lismore Base Hospital to push through after-hours GP clinics by bypassing the State Government.
Under the plan, the Commonwealth could work with divisions of general practice or with individual GPs or private clinics to fund the after-hours clinics next to hospitals such as Lismore Base.
Northern Rivers Division of General Practice chair Dr Tony Lembke responded to the plan with a 'thanks, but no thanks'.