Govt ducks blame for health cuts

THE Federal Government has rejected claims its health reforms are to blame for a plan to axe more than 62 positions in the North Coast Area Health Service.

NSW Nurses Association organiser Jo McKeough has told The Northern Star Health Service officials told her and a representative of the Health Services Union the positions had to go to make the most of efficiency-based funding under the new Federal-State funding agreement coming into effect next year.

The North Coast Area Health Service has declined to comment directly on those claims, on the number of positions that would be lost, or which positions would go.

In a statement, the service said it was ‘assessing its resources', that no permanent frontline staff would lose their jobs or be offered redundancy and that ‘any changes that occur will be through natural attrition and redeployment'.

Ms McKeough said staff could not cope with any further reduction in numbers, saying they ‘could not work any harder or faster' than they were now.

Ms McKeough's claims about the health service wanting to make efficiency gains sparked an angry reaction from Page MP Janelle Saffin, who said the Federal health reforms would improve the service.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon also chipped in yesterday, with a spokeswoman telling The Star: “There's nothing in the agreement that calls for the reduction of staff.”

Ms Saffin yesterday said she had already signed up for the Nurses Association's One in Five campaign, which was pushing for a ratio of one nurse to every five patients, and would not stand by while more nursing positions evaporated.

Ms Saffin said the reforms would hand health budgets directly on to the new local health networks, which form on January 11.

Funding would be assured through a case-mix model, which allocated money on the basis of how many and what types of procedures were performed.

“That will give us the money to do the things that we need to do,” she said.

Lismore MP Thomas George said he did not know of one hospital on the Northern Rivers that could afford to lose a nurse.

However, he also called on the Nurses Association to take a harder line on staff cuts by initiating industrial action to fight them.

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