Territory Stories

Debates Day 3 - Thursday 1 May 2003



Debates Day 3 - Thursday 1 May 2003

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Parliamentary Record 11


Debates for 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005




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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 1 May 2003 Chief Minister and the government: are we second rate Territorians in Alice Springs? I hope not. We heard the Health ministers pathetic response to the oppositions censure yesterday, where she could not tell us how she intends to improve health services in Alice Springs. This government has reduced services at the Alice Springs Hospital to such an extent that people are now waiting long hours to see a doctor at emergency. The Health minister blames everyone and everything around her for the decrease in services at the hospital, but she takes no responsibility herself. A member inteijecting. D r LIM : Well, the member continues to inteiject, and he can keep going. The minister damages the health system more and more. I at least contribute my share to help the hospital when they need doctors in emergency, and when they ask for it. I ask the Chief Minister: when will she deliver the private hospital facility that she promised at the run-up to the last election? I mention the private hospital - or rather the lack o f it. The Chief Minister and her Health minister both know full well that many patients have to wait long hours, stretching into days, for beds in wards. These patients could be in beds in the private wing if it were turned into a general ward temporarily. But then, the Health minister says she does not have enough nurses to go around. I wonder then how her promise of 75 new nurses is going to be fulfilled. The Health minister cancelled elective surgery at Alice Springs Hospital - on April Fools Day, mind you - citing the lack of anaesthetists. She knew as early as September last year that one of the senior anaesthetists would be going on long service leave and not likely to return. From a full complement of six anaesthetists, the Alice Springs Hospital went down to three. It is no wonder elective surgery had to be cancelled. What galls me is that the hospital knew well in advance that the anaesthetist was going to be on holidays, yet did nothing about it. It was not until we highlighted the issue that government embarked on recruitment. It was just a cynical exercise to save money to meet the budget line for salary savings. The Health minister denied yesterday that elective surgery is cancelled because she has created a new category called urgent elective. Urgent elective is an oxymoron. We all know what urgent means. Elective means optional, or not urgently necessary. So how do we have an urgent, optional case? There are doctors in the gallery; I will ask them to think about it. Or a case that is urgent, not urgently necessary? Let me say this: I have confirmed today that the Alice Springs Hospital cannot have elective surgery as medically defined until at least the end of this financial year. You are cheating the people of Alice Springs, Chief Minister, and I assure you that the people of Alice Springs will not forget that. Were it not for the dedication of all of the rest of the staff at the Alice Springs Hospital - from the hospital board down to the lowest employed person in the hospital - health services provision in the hospital would have come to a standstill a long time ago. Central Australians have much to thank them for - for all their unstinting efforts. They have to work to prop up a system that you have damaged. Let me now go to another subject that the Chief Minister talked about so rosily: the Charles Darwin University. Thank goodness that Labor members have finally come to realise the value and importance of the university to our community. The amalgamation of the Northern Territory University with the Centralian College to form Charles Darwin University is yet another evolutionary step for the Alice Springs educational institution which had its humble beginnings as the Alice Springs annexe of the Darwin Community College. Over the last three decades, it became the Community College of Central Australia then, in 1984, the Alice Springs College of TAFE. In 1994, through amalgamation with Sadadeen Secondary College, it became Centralian College, the only institution o f its kind in Australia, having senior high school and TAFE under one governance, allowing students to graduate with dual qualifications from school and TAFE. Added to that, Centralian College was able to deliver some higher education teaching on behalf of the Northern Territory University. The Chief Minister must caution her Education minister that he has to approach this amalgamation cautiously. We will have an institution that crosses three levels of education. We will have 16 to 18-year-olds in this institution, so we must ensure good pastoral care for our high school students who will now be receiving their education in a tertiary environment. We must also ensure that the efficiency of our TAFE institution is not compromised by what may be potentially a top-heavy tertiary system. So I say to the Chief Minister: I will be watching. The Chief Minister, in her statement, neglected to mention the Centre for Remote Health, a most important facility - a remote university jointly supported by the federal government and the Northern Territory. It was, indeed, the CLP government that gave land at the old Alice Springs Gaol as a site for the centre. It is in this facility that training for our much-needed nurses is being carried 3960