North Coast Nationals MPs say they have won an assurance from the head of the NSW Health Department that frontline jobs will not be cut in North Coast hospitals and that the North Coast health budget will be receiving a $4 million increase.

Nationals MPs including NSW Nationals Leader and Member for Oxley Andrew Stoner, Tweed MP Geoff Provest, Lismore MP Thomas George, Ballina MP Don Page, the duty MLC for Port Macquarie, Melinda Pavey, and the Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Jenny Gardiner, met with the Director General of Health, Deb Piccone, and the Deputy Director-General, Strategic Development, Richard Matthews.

Mr Stoner said the meeting was productive and gave the opportunity for the two most senior health bureaucrats in NSW to highlight how the Department is responding to budgetary pressures resulting from the financial mismanagement of the Rees Labor Government.

“I’m proud of my North Coast Nationals team for the passion in which they represented their electorates at the meeting, and it’s because of that ongoing passion with the support of their communities, I’m convinced that the North Coast Area Health Service has recently received two funding injections,” Mr Stoner said.

Mr George said: “During the meeting it was revealed the NCAHS received an increase of $37 million for the 2008/09 financial year and in recent weeks an additional $4 million was allocated, the biggest share of any region.”

Mr Provest said: “However, due to a growing and ageing population, these increases have not fully compensated for the pressures on North Coast Hospitals and the Health Department will look to efficiencies in an effort to live within Budget.”

Ms Gardiner said: “There will be a stronger effort by the NCAHS to cut back on locums (paying for doctors to fly in and fly out), by employing more doctors and specialists locally; more nursing positions will be made permanent; and the use of agency staff and overtime will be reduced.”

Mr Cansdell said: “While full-time nursing positions seems secure, I have major concerns with Professor Piccone’s comments regarding the tendering of all hospital meals and the closing of Casino Hospital’s kitchen.”

Mr Page said: “We will not back down on our demands for a fairer share for North Coast Hospitals, and to get our fair share of resources under the Resource Allocation Formula.”

Ms Pavey thanked Professor Piccone and Mr Mathews for their forthright briefing and ‘I understand the pressures they are facing, having to respond to budget restrictions placed on them by the State Labor Government’.

“I would also encourage all residents within the region to sign our online petition so we can keep the pressure up to get our fair share,” Mr Stoner said.