Cruel cutbacks to palliative care in and around Lismore are a ‘major blow’ to the local community, Lismore Nationals MP Thomas George told the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday.

“This palliative care social worker position, which operates 18 hours a week, services approximately 100 patients a month — that is, 800 patients since last February,” Mr George said.

“To cut this important position to save 18 hours a week shows how low this Government can go.

“This position cut follows cuts to other services. Previously, services have been lost from outlying areas such as Kyogle, Bonalbo, Urbenville and Woodenbong.

“People in country areas cannot hop in a car, drive down the road and access these services. They do not have access to transport. They rely on social workers to visit them.”

Mr George said the palliative care axe, along with the 400 front-line staff cuts across the North Coast Area Health Service, were typical of the Government’s delivery of health services to the Northern Rivers community.

“Registered nurses are being replaced by enrolled nurses and assistants in nursing in many critical and acute care settings,” he said.

“Professional services at our hospitals will not be able to be provided if the North Coast Area Health Service continues to make these ridiculous cutbacks on the basis of financial management.”

Mr George also alluded to a culture of staff intimidation in the embattled Area Health Service.

“At a union rally of nurses in Lismore on 5 August, I was told that staff were threatened that their pay would be docked if they attended during an unpaid half-hour lunch break,” he said.

“However, a photograph of the rally on the front page of The Northern Star clearly shows no attendance by nurses in uniform, only by off-duty nurses.”