ScoMo returns to Cairns as hospital funds fall flat

 

PRIME Minister Scott Morrison came to Cairns before the federal election to announce $60m towards the Cairns University Hospital project.

He will return on Thursday to discover no work has begun on the critical piece of infrastructure despite almost two years passing since the visit.

Neither of Queensland's major political parties has committed the full $165m funding required to safeguard the entire Far North's health future.

Labor has had two years to get started but so far has only come up with partial pledges of $1.5m for a preliminary business case and $15m to buy the land.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison visits the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine at James Cook University's Cairns Campus in January 2019 to announce $60 million of federal government funding for the Cairns Tropical Enterprise Centre as part of the Cairns University Hospital project. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison visits the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine at James Cook University's Cairns Campus in January 2019 to announce $60 million of federal government funding for the Cairns Tropical Enterprise Centre as part of the Cairns University Hospital project. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE.

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The LNP has not put a red cent on the operating table.

Almost three weeks and, no doubt, plenty of funding announcements still remain before the October 31 election, but postal voting has begun and pre-polling booths open on Monday.

Labor and the LNP are fast running out of time to commit to a project that will have enormous health, job and economic benefits for the entire region - not just Cairns but all through Cape York, the Torres Strait and beyond.

Health Minister Steven Miles was in Cairns on Wednesday to announce $11.5m for a youth drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre, but made no mention of the $163.5m shortfall in Labor's Cairns University Hospital pledge so far.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced $52.9 million in funding for the Cairns Hospital, which includes $1.5 for a business study into a tertiary training partnership with James Cook University. Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles, Advance Cairns Executive Chairman Nick Trompf, Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Member for Barron River C
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced $52.9 million in funding for the Cairns Hospital, which includes $1.5 for a business study into a tertiary training partnership with James Cook University. Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles, Advance Cairns Executive Chairman Nick Trompf, Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Member for Barron River C

"We have a preferred site; there are now funds available and now discussions are occurring with property owners to see if we can secure those sites," he said.

"Work is certainly under way and we've got a clear plan to expand the hospital, make it a university hospital and train more people here locally, because we know that will let us deliver more services locally."

LNP health spokeswoman Ros Bates hammered Labor for making promises it could not keep.

She acknowledged the importance of the Cairns University Hospital but, again, made no commitment to build it.

The Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service board is campaigning for commitments to fund the Cairns University Hospital Precinct. Clinical nurse consultant and nurse educator Cassie Abell and hospital simulation co-ordinator Jacob Croker see many benefits of a tertiary level university hospital. PICTURE: SUPPLIED
The Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service board is campaigning for commitments to fund the Cairns University Hospital Precinct. Clinical nurse consultant and nurse educator Cassie Abell and hospital simulation co-ordinator Jacob Croker see many benefits of a tertiary level university hospital. PICTURE: SUPPLIED

"Cairns University Hospital is important as part of a long-term plan for healthcare in Far North Queensland," she said.

"Labor have no plan, no budget and no deal to buy the land for the hospital.

"Cairns voters should judge Labor by their record - not their pre-election promises. Labor has cut $12bn from infrastructure spending over the last five years which means less money for new hospitals and upgrades."

Ms Bates did leave the door open for funding down the track, saying the LNP would "make more health announcements during the campaign".

Vague assurances are cold comfort this close to the vote.

The Prime Minister's visit to Cairns on Thursday appears to be part of an effort to help shore up LNP Leader Deb Frecklington's election prospects.

The New South Welshman was allowed to enter the state after staying in the ACT for a fortnight.

During a touchdown in January last year, he announced $60m in federal funding to build James Cook University's Cairns Tropical Enterprise Centre component of the university hospital.

JCU's Cairns campus director, David Craig, has said construction could start as soon as land was bought - which has been assured by Labor - but the rest of the university hospital upgrade remains unfunded.

Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said the project should not be a political issue.

He called for bipartisanship to fund the full $165m cost now that Labor had committed to buying the land.

"It's absolutely critical that the state government, irrespective of what political colour, steps up to this one," he said.

HEALTH ELECTION PLEDGES SO FAR

LNP

Cairns University Hospital

Committed

$0

Shortfall

$165 million for construction

$15 million to buy the land

Other health pledges

$26 million expansion of the Cairns Hospital emergency department

$19.8 million to reduce Cairns and Hinterland surgery wait list to zero

$2 million for a kidney transplant unit in Cairns

LABOR

Cairns University Hospital

Committed

$15 million towards buying the land

$1.5 million for a preliminary business case

Shortfall

$163.5 million for construction

Other health pledges

$26.4 million expansion of the Cairns Hospital emergency department

$20.7 million for upgrades at Cairns Hospital

$11.5 million for a youth rehabilitation centre in Cairns

$2 million to add a new endoscopy room to Cairns Hospital

$1.5 million to convert unused Cairns Hospital space to a pre-admission clinic

$800,000 to fit out a 12th operating theatre at Cairns Hospital

Originally published as ScoMo returns to Cairns as hospital funds fall flat


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