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BIC backs boards

Wednesday, 17th February, 2010

The Barrier Industrial Council said reinstating the local hospital board was a good idea but questioned Tony Abbott's motives in vowing to do so.

Mr Abbott, the Federal Opposition Leader, said this week that if the Coalition was elected to government this year it would reinstate local hospital boards in NSW. He said the move would allow hospitals to shift their focus from meeting targets to meeting patient needs. "Community controlled public hospitals would focus on meeting patient needs rather than just meeting state government targets, which are invariably about budgets not services," Mr Abbott said in a statement. But despite believing the reinstatement of the local board to be a good idea, BIC president Danny O'Connor said Mr Abbott's comments were disingenuous because he did not push for boards when he was health minister. "I'm no fan of Tony Abbott. If he really believed in hospital boards he would have pushed for them when he was health minister," he said. "But for Broken Hill we believe, the community believes, that they'd be better served with a local board with a local manager making the decision in the community with the board." Under the Opposition plan, the board would be made up of the chair of the medical staff council and the director of nursing as well as community representatives with experience in running large companies. They would appoint the hospital chief executive and, with the CEO, manage the budgets. NSW hospitals are currently managed by the Health Department via the area health services but they have come under increasing pressure as budget cuts, costing blow outs and crippling staff shortages plague them. The most recent figures show that in the Greater Western Area Health Service alone the budget blow out beyond it's own benchmark was $8.3 million with Broken Hill having a huge shortage of nurses and medical staff. In August last year hundreds of the city's residents rallied in the main street to protest against new funding and call for the reinstatement of the local hospital board. Mr O'Connor said that rally proved that the current system was failing the people. "The health system is not working," he said. "That's what we had the march for. Obviously when we had the board here - with the right people in charge - it proved to be a success. "We had a hospital that ran to budget." The Federal Government has downplayed the Opposition's measure but has not itself ruled out including boards in the overdue health reform plan. BDT/AAP

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