The Bundaberg Hospital is in debt but by how much is being kept under wraps.
The Bundaberg Hospital is in debt but by how much is being kept under wraps. Mike Knott

Budget deficit is how much?

THE budget deficit for Bundaberg Hospital and the Wide Bay Health Service District is spiralling – but no one can say by how much.

The NewsMail first learned of the deficit during an interview with Wide Bay Health Service District chief executive Ken Whelan last Friday.

But attempts to ascertain how large the deficit was have been unsuccessful.

The NewsMail first asked newly sworn-in Health Minister Geoff Wilson what the size of deficit was on Tuesday morning.

On Wednesday afternoon, the NewsMail was told a figure would not be available.

Mr Wilson would only say in a written response: “We are spending more money and delivering more services in Bundaberg-Wide Bay than any government in Queensland's history.

“In last year's budget, the Bligh Government increased health spending by over 10%.

“I know that (health service district CEO Ken Whelan) is working to ensure the health service continues to deliver world-class care while also ensuring taxpayers' money is spent wisely.”

Mr Whelan also sent back a written response.

“The Bundaberg Hospital budget, which does not include the many millions spent on the redevelopment and upgrades, increased by more than 5% from 2009/10 to 2010/11,” he said.

Mr Whelan also offered some practical examples of how he was trying to reduce the deficit.

“One area I will focus on is recruitment, because more permanent staff moving into our community will be better for services and also reduce our reliance on expensive short-term contractors,” he said.

“My bottom line is spending taxpayers' money wisely while maintaining and increasing the level of service we provide to the people of Wide Bay.”

Member for Bundaberg Jack Dempsey said he had made several attempts to establish the status of the hospital's budget, but had got nowhere.

“The reality is that I am actually unsure whether they know what the exact budget is.”

Mr Dempsey said he had asked the health minister a number of times what the budget was.

“He continues to avoid the issue,” he said.

Mr Dempsey also asked the Health Minister to detail the Bundaberg Hospital's budget for the past five years in a question on notice on February 16.

An answer is due back on March 18.



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