During a press conference outside the Manning Hospital on Friday in which State Labor leader Michael Daley promised $100 million to upgrade facilities at the hospital if elected, he also suggested that he would be following up on calls for a public hospital at Forster.
Asked why $100 million had been promised solely to Taree when there were clear calls from Great Lakes’ residents about the need for a hospital at Forster, Mr Daley said that local Labor candidate, Dr David Keegan, had raised the issue with him.
“I’ve asked David and Walt (NSW shadow minister for health, Walt Secord) to go and have a look at that issue and report back to me as soon as they can,” he said.
While it remains to be seen if Labor will pursue the issue further, Mr Daley said that health would be a major priority for his administration if elected at the March 23 election.
Claiming the Liberals had underspent massively on the Manning Hospital over the last eight years, Mr Daley said the $100 million his administration was promising was a once in a generation investment.
“This will mean the world to people who live in this area,” he said.
“It will mean we can provide a great many services here after the upgrade is done, so that people don’t have to go to Port Macquarie, people won’t have to go to John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle, they’ll be able to get the services they need right here.”
Dr Keegan, a long-serving medical professional in the area, said the funding could go towards making improvements to the emergency department, installing a transition lounge for patients awaiting tests or requiring transportation, adding another operating theatre and improving cardiac services.
Mr Daley also promised $1.25 million for groups in the area dedicated to palliative care.
“This money would allow us to make a position for a pal-care specialist at Manning Hospital, as well as go a long way to support other services—the allied health services, the occupational therapists and physiotherapists—to treat people in their own home,” Manning Valley Push For Palliative representative, Robyn Lee said.
“It’ll be great for people with a life-limiting illness.”
Asked what he thought Labor’s chances were of winning both the Myall Lakes’ seat and the NSW election, Mr Daley failed to provide a clear answer but did stand by his $100 million promise to Manning Hospital.
“I’m certain that if we get elected, if I’m your premier, this is an ironclad guarantee.”
In response to Mr Daley’s announcement, Coalition candidate and member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead said Labor was in fact only pledging a $60 million upgrade because the existing Liberal-National government had already contributed $40 million to the upgrade of Manning Hospital during its last term.
He also said that with his submission of a petition to parliament calling for a public hospital at Forster, he was the only candidate with a track record of fighting for a hospital in the area and that the issue would remain at the top of his agenda.
“We’ve got the 10,000 signatures and we would love the government to make a commitment at this election,” he said.