Public rage over health cuts expected to grow

DESPITE the low turn-out at protest rallies across the region over the weekend against proposed cuts to local health care services, politicians and mayors expect the backlash to grow as more details about the loss of services and jobs are announced.

Rallies were held on Saturday at Lismore, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour and Tweed Heads, attracting only a couple of hundred of people at each location.

The Tweed rally was even overshadowed by a nearby property auction, which drew a larger crowd.
The State Government announced as part of its mini-budget that as many as 400 jobs would be slashed from the North Coast Area Health Service.

While the Government assured anxious health workers all job losses would be voluntary redundancies, there are no details about which areas will be affected.

In Lismore, about 80 people sweltered through a humid Saturday afternoon to lodge their opposition.
Lismore mayor and ALP member Jenny Dowell partly blamed the muggy weather, but conceded: “I thought it was a fairly small crowd.

“At this stage it’s all a bit nebulous. We have heard about job cuts across the region and there hasn’t been an accurate figure of what different areas might lose,” she said. “It’s not until actual job cuts are announced that it starts to affect people and worry them.”

Lismore Nationals MP Thomas George dismissed suggestions the turnout was lower than expected.
“I didn’t expect much more than 100. In fact I was pleased we got 100. I wasn’t expecting 3000 or 4000,” he said. “When we decided to have these simultaneous rallies it was just to get the message across that this is happening and we are going to need your support as a community over the next few weeks to try and take this forward.”

Mr George said once the health department announced details of the cuts hospital-by-hospital, more people would express their outrage.

“When Murwillumbah was recently threatened with cuts to the maternity section 3000 people from that community rallied against them,” he said.

Tweed MP Geoff Provest also shook off disappointment about the low turnout, preferring instead to focus on the diversity of community members who did attend.

“We had a mix of young children, young families, middle-aged, seniors and pensioners,” Mr Provost said.

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