Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 23 March 2005
Parliamentary Record 25
Debates for 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 23 March 2005 MOTION Routine of Business M r HENDERSON (Leader of Government Business): Madam Speaker, I move that Government Business Order of the Day No 2, Initiatives and Achievements in Central Australia ministerial statement by the Chief Minister be called on forthwith. Motion agreed to. MOTION Note Statement - Initiatives and Achievements in Central Australia Continued from 22 March 2005. Ms CARTER (Port Darwin): Madam Speaker, the ministerial statement delivered yesterday by the Chief Minister entitled Government Initiatives and Achievements in Central Australia waxes lyrically about health services here in Central Australia, and, quite frankly, the runs are not on the board for the Labor government. It was hard to believe the comments made by the Chief Minister with regards to health, and by the Health minister yesterday when he spoke. Quite frankly, there is a history of this government trying to gild the lily, so to speak, in the area of health in Central Australia. A classic example was last year when the minister insisted the intensive care unit at Alice Springs Hospital was open only to find out - and have put on the record a few days later by the staff - that, in fact, minister, oops-a-daisy, the intensive care unit was in fact closed due to staffing problems. I am hesitant to take on board everything with regards to health in this initiatives and achievements in Central Australia which we heard so much about yesterday. One of the issues talked about is an extra 39 nurses who have apparently been put on the rosters at Alice Springs Hospital in the last three and a half years. I would like the minister to detail in writing each of those positions: what is the new position number, where do these nursing positions exist, and which wards are they on? Quite frankly, if there are an extra 39 nurses working at Alice Springs Hospital, why then are the nurses on industrial action as we speak? Why are they not happy? Why are they overworked? The number of beds in the hospital has continued to fall over the years. We know there maybe some increased throughput because of the demands on the current beds which are there, and the pressure on nurses to get patients discharged as quickly as possible. I am well aware, as a nurse, of the increased work that that puts on you and your colleagues. However, 39 extra nurses in to Alice Springs Hospital is quite a significant number, and why is it not working if there really are 39 extra people? Or, is it the case that there are not 39 extra nurses and instead, due to the workload there, the department has been budgeting extra wages which, if you turned into human beings, would equate to 39 extra staff? Is it really just an allocation of money into the wages pool and what you end up seeing is nurses having to work double and triple time and extra shifts left, right and centre, and bringing in agency nurses? Are there really 39 extra nurses, or do we only have an allocation of extra funding into the wages pool? Is this the reason why the nurses are stressed to the max and calling on work bans as a preliminary to goodness knows what else they might choose to do next, if this does not have an effect on this government? It is a significant issue. Alice Springs Hospital has been spiralling to this position over the last three and a half years. Last year, when I was the shadow minister for Health, the Minister for Health said on the radio that he was sick and tired of Sue Carter going on and on about health problems at Alice Springs Hospital and Royal Darwin Hospital. Well, that really helped, didnt it? We still have these problems, they are getting worse, and nothing useful is being achieved. In her statement yesterday, the Chief Minister commented that there are an extra eight positions in the child health team. Once again, I ask: have they been filled or are they just a hope? Have they really filled these positions? Let us hear from the Chief Minister. Can she tell us, when she wraps up on this debate, were the positions really filled or is it just a bit of a furphy? This government has form in telling the public what is happening when in reality it is not happening. I come to the area that fits within my shadow portfolio quite specifically, which concerns Family and Childrens Services. Members will be aware that over the last couple of weeks, I have been raising the issue o f there being no senior welfare staff stationed in Tennant Creek at the moment. What happens now is that if there is an issue, for example, with concerns about the welfare of a child, those concerns have to be relayed south to Alice Springs on the off-chance that there might be a member of staff in Alice Springs available to look into the issue. No extra staff have been put on to the welfare staffing at Alice Springs to cope with now having to take over Tennant Creek. I do not know about you, Madam Acting Deputy Speaker, but every time I visit Tennant Creek, the last thing I leave with is an impression that all is well in that town. It is a town that quite obviously has significant social problems, and the children, it
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