Territory Stories

Debates Day 3 - Thursday 31 May 2001



Debates Day 3 - Thursday 31 May 2001

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Parliamentary Record 28


Debates for 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Thursday 31 May 2001 S lim increase will be swallowed up by the 2.3% CPI, there appears to be no money in this budget to provide our valuable nursing staff the significant pay increase they have applied for and, to be realistic, if we are to remain competitive in terms of recruitment and retention we will have to fund to a large part. Comparatively, we are now fifth out of the eight states in terms of salaries for nursing staff and we cannot afford to fall further. We saw last weekend a large advertisement in the NT News from Western Health in Victoria actively poaching our nurses with far superior wages and conditions. We have to fight back. We are also competing against aggressive recruitment campaigns for nurses from the UK, New South Wales and South Australia. Indeed, we all know that there is a worldwide shortage of nurses and I would like to hear the health minister and his colleague, the education minister, agree upfront to a significant increase in wages and conditions for nurses. We have to bite the bullet and recognise that to be competitive, we have to pay more. I was surprised the health minister did not take up the ANF offer and meet with nurses from across the Territory to listen to their concerns. It is all too easy to denigrate the ANF but they are the official representative body which negotiates wages and conditions on behalf of the profession. To have such a hostile relationship with the union leaves the minister out of touch with the real issues of concern to these people who work in the nursing profession. Labors commitment to nurses is clear in our Hospitals position paper. Where is the increase in wages for nurses to be found in this budget? I will be pursuing this in the upcoming appropriation debate. Another budget presentation issue causing me great suspicion is that there is no individual breakdown of hospital budgets presented in these papers. They are all lumped in together. I have budget papers in my office and annual reports going back to 1994-95 and all show the five hospitals as specific line items at the activity and the program level. This year they are all lumped in together. What is the minister trying to hide? Why change the acute sector reporting categories? It makes sense to publish budgets against each of the five hospitals in the Territory as the acute sector is the largest single category of costs in the THS budget and this is a logical way to break it down. These budget papers provide less detail on the acute side o f the ledger than budget papers over the last 10 years. Once again, even i f the estimated outcome for 2000-2001 is accurate, for the acute sector we are only seeing a 2.78% increase in hospital operational funding. There has been an ongoing history of budget underfunding for our hospitals by the CLP. Over the five year period 1995-96 to 1999-2000, Royal Darwin Hospitals actual expenditure averaged 7.7% per annum more than was budgeted for. For other Territory hospitals, the results were 6.4% per annum more than was budgeted. This places extreme pressure on the management of our hospitals and on the staff working within them as they strive to meet the budget parameters with negative impacts on staff morale and retention rates. This CLP government itself recognises an annual growth requirement of hospital budgets of about 4% but has not even incorporated this into the budgeted increases each year. In February 2000, the Australian Medical Association stated that funding for public hospitals was increasing at barely 4% per annum. They estimated that an annual increase of 8% was required to provide the expected level of care and services. This poor budget practice has occurred again this year. We all know under the Commonwealth-State Health Care Agreement we cannot turn people away from our hospitals when they present to them. Why, then, doesnt the minister give the hospitals the 4% at least that the minister recognises is needed to maintain services as a reasonable level? Having worked in Territory Health Services as the minister has, he should know and understand the amount of time and administrative effort consumed each year through this farcical process of continually, knowingly underfunding the operational side of the hospital budget. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfares Health and Community Services Labour Force Report in 1996 shows that in the Northern Territory - and I know these figures are slightly dated - that 18.8% of people employed in health occupations per 100 000 in the states and territories work under the category of medical administration with the average of the other states at 10.8%. On page 167 of Budget Paper No. 2, the headline Budget for Organisational Support is $ 18.5m, a cut of $2.26m at the activity level. However, when you go over the page under the new output group level you see a budget for operational support of $3 3m which is a significant increase. So this an issue again to be pursued in appropriations as to what is happening at this activity level. Although the AIHW Report is somewhat dated, we certainly dont see much by way in decline. In the administrative budget, in the departments, we suspect that much of this administrative effort is expended year on year in grappling with underfunding and continual budget reviews. 7796