Health redundancies will cut deep in regional areas

RELEVANT OR REDUNDANT? Nurses at Emerald Hospital during the height of the payroll debacle in 2010 are now being challenged to apply for voluntary redundancies, as are other Queensland Health employees in the central health district.
RELEVANT OR REDUNDANT? Nurses at Emerald Hospital during the height of the payroll debacle in 2010 are now being challenged to apply for voluntary redundancies, as are other Queensland Health employees in the central health district. Di Stanley

THE embattled Queensland Health, scrambling to recover $108 million statewide, has set its sights on central Queensland with a call for staff to apply for voluntary redundancy packages.

Queensland Nurses' Union acting secretary Des Elder said more positions were set to be cut as the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Services board sought to recover a $4.8m funding gap it said was caused by the Federal Government.

The QNU confirmed three positions had been cut since late last year, with another two in the crosshairs.

"It will have quite a dramatic effect on people trying to navigate the health system," Mr Elder said.

As well as the redundant Emerald Community Health Interface Program nurse, palliative care co-ordinator and childhood immunisation nurse, Emerald's wound care and cardiac rehabilitation nurses were under review, he added.

"Those services provide essential services to the rural and regional communities through health programs, early interventions and referrals," Mr Elder said.

Central Highlands Mayor Peter Maguire said the State Government had failed to involve the council in any deliberations about services and would have to wait until further announcements for more information.

But he said he would take up the issue with Premier Campbell Newman on Friday when he was in Emerald.

I would hate to see any loss of services in Emerald, Springsure, Blackwater and the Gemfields, especially when we are in a growing region.

 Mayor Peter Maguire

"Health was an issue we were going to ask about anyway," Cr Maguire said.

But Central Queensland Medicare Local deputy chairman Dr Ewen McPhee said the health sector had previously made moves towards privatisation including transferring the Emerald Hospital's diabetic and podiatry services to the CQML, and activating early referrals for emergency department patients to general practitioners.

"It is unsettling but ultimately we should be able to preserve the health dollar for where it is really needed and reduce the waste and inefficiencies that have existed in the system for a long time," Dr McPhee said.

"If people are concerned then they should talk to the politicians, Maree Geraghty and her officers, or the chair of the board, Charles Ware."

The QNU yesterday said 60 positions were to be cut from the Townsville Hospital, with more than 19 nursing and midwifery positions in rural and community health services, and more than five in cancer care units.

No hospitals in the Isaac region are believed to be impacted by the changes.

Staff have until February 4 to apply for voluntary redundancies.

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