Northern NSW Local Health District Chief Executive Chris Crawford.
Northern NSW Local Health District Chief Executive Chris Crawford. Jay Cronan

Clean cuts to labour costs: Health chief

LABOUR cost cuts to Northern Rivers' health services over this financial year will be achieved without the loss of frontline medical positions, according to NNSW Local Health District chief executive Chris Crawford.

Mr Crawford's detailed outline of the $3.4 million in savings measures contradicted claims from the state opposition that Northern NSW would lose 35 frontline medical staff as part of the wider $72.6 million cuts to the public health sector's labour expenses.

Mr Crawford said approximately a third of the savings would be achieved by targeting so-called "premium labour costs", which include temporary medical staff and locums, where labour was often 50% more costly.

A further third of savings will be achieved via merging or cutting positions, but limited to management roles, administration and support staff.

One example was the loss of two clerical positions in the radiography department thanks to voice-recognition software.

Mr Crawford said the final 30% would be by reducing casual nurse hours and better rostering for visiting medical officers.

"This doesn't affect permanent nursing staff," Mr Crawford said.

The NNSW LHD has increased revenues via private patients, whose medical costs are funded by insurers.

"Not only do the private patients pay for being in the hospital, but their fund also pays for their doctor costs." 

Health Minister Jillian Skinner said the labour expense cap savings were necessary to restore the state's finances.

But HSU secretary Gerard Hayes said staff such as wardsmen and security officers were vital to safe hospitals and the union would fight the cuts with industrial action if necessary.



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