State election candidates have debated staffing levels in the lead-up to this month’s election. Photo: iStock photos
State election candidates have debated staffing levels in the lead-up to this month’s election. Photo: iStock photos

War of words: Parties clash over health worker numbers

IT'S just weeks until voters hit the polls to have their say in the state election and it's heating up with two Bundaberg candidates coming to blows over whether or not frontline healthcare workers will be sacked.

All three candidates in the race to win Bundaberg's seat exchanged opposing views during the NewsMail's live election forum last week and the debate has continued about the future of Bundaberg's healthcare workers.

It comes after opposition leader Deb Frecklington recently promised $1.3 billion would be invested into Queensland's health services, under an elected LNP government, which would assist to create an additional 4500 healthcare jobs across the state.

Ms Frecklington said the funding would secure almost 4500 roles over the next four years, including 2530 nurses and midwives, 320 paramedics, 750 doctors and 840 allied health professionals.

"Queensland cannot have (a) world-class public health system without a strong and successful economy," Ms Frecklington said.

"An LNP government will invest over $1.3 billion to provide more nurses, paramedics, doctors and allied health professionals in every corner of this state.

"Our investment in more frontline health workers will improve patient care, ease the pressure on our hospitals and create more jobs."

But Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles believes the numbers won't keep up with the growth of patients at its current rate.

"In five years we have rebuilt our health frontline by hiring 7358 more nurses, 2450

more doctors, 2031 more health practitioners and 812 more paramedics," Mr Miles said.

"Last time she was in government, (Deb Frecklington) and Campbell Newman sacked 4400 health staff in Queensland.

"It is because of our strong health response that we have been able to get on with

Queensland's plan for economic recovery."

Mr Miles said the LNP's figures meant less healthcare workers would be hired over the next four years when compared to the number of additional staff brought on by the Labor Government over the last five years.

Labor candidate for Bundaberg Tom Smith said he felt these figures contradicted the incumbent state Member for Bundaberg David Batt's commitment to prioritise health in the region, a promise made by the MP at the live election forum in Bundaberg last week.

"On Wednesday night, you had the current member saying he would prioritise health,

and then days later you have Deb Frecklington announcing they would hire less

health workers - that's a cut," Mr Smith said.

"When Deb Frecklington was Campbell Newman's assistant minister, she cut 345

health workers from the Wide Bay region, 120 of which were nurses.

"The Palaszczuk Labor Government has further bolstered public health services to

respond to COVID-19."

But the incumbent MP stood by his commitment and said if the LNP government was elected, the investment will deliver more nurses, midwives, paramedics and doctors for Bundaberg.

"An LNP government will invest more than $1.3 billion to create thousands of additional health care jobs, improve patient care and provide better health services across Queensland, including right here in Bundaberg," Mr Batt said.

"Since 2001, Labor has closed maternity services in 26 rural and regional communities (and) they have also failed to make any commitment to employing more health care staff in the future.

"The LNP's policy is black and white - we will employ more health care staff right across Queensland, including here in Bundaberg and we will restore maternity services for regional hospitals like Chinchilla and Theodore."

Legalise Cannabis Queensland Party's Ian Zunker said it was a case of the old saying "too many chiefs, not enough Indians."

"The top cats in government and business are always cutting the frontline staff which in-turn creates holes in the business model," Mr Zunker said.

"Shortages in staff and supplies creates more problems than it solves - fatigue becomes more prevalent, mistakes occur more, which hurts the business more than when there were staff on hand (and) the problem is that these mistakes can be deadly.

"In saying that, if we had ease of access to the therapeutic medicine cannabis, the strain on the health system wouldn't need to be anywhere near as big as what it is - it helps so many people in so many ways, and we need to allow this to be accessible with ease."

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