Health cuts next blow

FIRST corrective services, then education, and now health is the next department to fall under the NSW Government's axe.

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner yesterday confirmed the government would slash funding for health across the state by $3 billion.

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis agreed there was a sense of panic over potential impacts of the cuts.

"MPs are panicking too," he said.

He said local health boards will be responsible for determining where savings are made and while he wouldn't be involved with that, he would "like to be kept abreast of what they propose".

"It's got to be put into context.

"The jail restructure is just plain wrong. It impacted on one community over and above any other, but these apply to every portfolio right across NSW."

Mr Gulaptis said any further job losses in the Valley would send up a "red flag" to the government because of the jail restructure, and the fact he didn't know about the education cuts before they happened was "disappointing".

But Page MP Janelle Saffin said the cuts equated to more than 3600 jobs - "the equivalent on average of more than 16 doctors, nurses and allied health professionals sacked from hospitals like Lismore Base and Grafton Base," she said.

"Regardless of what Jillian Skinner says, the NSW Coalition's attack on health services, which come on the back of cuts to our local schools, will lead to a collapse in health service delivery at the front line," Ms Saffin said.

"The real impact of these cuts is longer queues in emergency departments, hospital ward and bed closures and longer waiting times for surgery."

The announcement came just days after the NSW Government said it would axe 1800 jobs from education and raise TAFE fees to save $1.7 billion in the next four years.

Meanwhile, Clarence Valley Community Unions says the Valley is still reeling from the restructure at Grafton Jail.

The group is still planning to deliver a 14,000-strong petition against the downsizing of the jail to Parliament in mid-October.

"It was something we endeavoured to do from the beginning and, though it's later than we wanted to do it, it's important we follow through," Sharryn Usher, from Clarence Valley Community Unions, said.

In reference to the latest announcements, Ms Usher said she was disappointed to hear Mr Gulaptis "again" wasn't invited to the table regarding the education cuts.

"That's what he told me when it came to things around the jail.

"That's not a good enough excuse. He needs to be speaking out as it is impacting on our community and we need someone out there representing us."



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