GILMORE MP Ann Sudmalis did not join two of her fellow candidates in this weekend’s federal election in signing a pledge to support nurses and midwives.
Labor candidate Fiona Phillips and Greens candidate Carmel McCallum both signed the pledge during a rally in Nowra on Monday which featured ACTU president Ged Kearney.
Ms Kearney visited the Milton Hospital and later joined nurses outside Mrs Sudmalis’ office discussing the impact of hospital and Medicare funding cuts.
“If you rip almost a million dollars out of GP co-payments people will have to pay to go to the doctor,” Ms Kearney said.
“The minute you do that health care becomes something you can afford or can’t afford.
“Once it becomes a financial decision it’s at the mercy of the market. We could easily say the whole system is being privatised by stealth.”
She refuted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s claims Medicare would not be privatised.
“The PM is being disingenuous. Once you have to pay, once it is a financial decision, once you say can I afford go to the doctor or hospital or I can’t or what do I have to swap, a meal here or something that I need desperately to buy with my budget, it is privatised.
“He is spinning the truth. He is being unclear to the people of Australia when he says he is not privatising it, when clearly if you have to decide can I afford to go to the doctor or hospital there is seriously a privatisation agenda afoot.
“Regional hospitals run close to the bone at any time.
“The forward budget is looking at a $57 billion cut right across the board. For Shoalhaven hospital that is over $135 million it won’t have going forward for their budgets. That’s a massive impact on a regional hospital. That’s lots of money, lots of midwives, potential nurses and resources a hospital like Shoalhaven cannot do without.
“As ACTU president I’m here representing working people. Working people want a better future, to save Medicare, have a decent education system for their kids and rights at work. It’s pretty clear to me.”
The group later moved to the Nowra pre-polling where an aged care nurse questioned Mrs Sudmalis about some of the questions on the pledge to support nurses including if she was willing to support restoring of the funding of health funding agenda, Medicare, penalty rates and registered nurses in aged care 24/7.
“Since the 2013-14 budget, the last Labor budget, we’ve increased aged care funding by 25.5 per cent,” Mrs Sudmalis said.
“We have given an unequivocal answer that nothing will happen to Medicare. The Medicare rebate system will not be privatised and a significant increase in money being invested in Medicare.”
She said the penalty rates process was “before the tribunal and the government had no say in that”.
“I will support whatever the tribunal says,” she said.
“We don‘t actually look after staffing in aged care. That’s the state government.”
The nurse questioning Mrs Sudmalis said ultimately staffing would be determined by the money available to employ staff, which comes from the federal government.
There were suggestions $1.2 billion was cut from the health budget, $900 million taken from GP co-payments and that while aged care may be a state issue, federal funding also determined staffing ratios.
Mrs Sudmalis cut the impromptu media conference short, saying she was on a polling booth.
“I’m actually here to talk to voters and while you all vote, it is unlikely any of you will vote for me, so I think our interview is done as I would like to talk to people who might vote for me,” she said.