Putting the case for health funds
By SHAN GOODWIN
A SIX-MAN delegation will fly to Sydney today to meet State Health Minister John Hatzistergos to demand the Northern Rivers gets its fair share of health funds.
One hundred million dollars for Lismore Base Hospital's redevelopment and $35 million in the North Coast Area Health Service's wallet this financial year is what they want.
The State Government last month acknowledged it has not fully implemented the resource distribution formula for health funding which has resulted in a shortfall of up to $35 million for the region.
The delegation will also demand a commitment to recruiting and retaining rural specialists.
What they have to negotiate with is the mandate of hundreds of thousands of Northern Rivers residents fed up with being treated as second-class citizens not worthy of adequate health services.
A massive 19,000-plus of those residents have put their name to petitions organised by Goonellabah's Marshall Fittler, who will be the community representative on the delegation.
With him will be Lismore MP Thomas George, Ballina MP Don Page, Lismore mayor Merv King, medical staff chairman Dr Rob Simon and secretary Dr William James.
Mr Fittler said the team was confident it had 'the artillery to combat whatever resistance the State Health Minister came up with'.
Dr Simon was less confident, saying the fear was the officials would 'say things but not do them.'
Health Minister John Hatzistergos yesterday said he would visit the North Coast to speak to staff about their concerns and needs as soon as his schedule allowed.
He declined to speak about the $35 million funding shortfall, saying he did not believe the issues of the health service were best addressed through media posturing.
Meanwhile, the region's mayors have joined forces to bring home the extent of crisis.
Acting Ballina mayor John Felsch has just had a close call with pneumonia.
"I can tell you it is a fine line between life and death, and you are relying on getting the best possible support at the right time," he said.
"I wonder how many of these people in high administration positions in Sydney have actually been sick."