Health Minister Brad Hazzard avoids answering Phil Donato's question on Parkes maternity unit

WE'LL KEEP FIGHTING: State Member for Orange Phil Donato told the crowd of more than 200 people at the Parkes Maternity Unit rally that he'll keep fighting to have services restored for Parkes and Forbes.
WE'LL KEEP FIGHTING: State Member for Orange Phil Donato told the crowd of more than 200 people at the Parkes Maternity Unit rally that he'll keep fighting to have services restored for Parkes and Forbes.

"Answer the question," the State Member for Orange Phil Donato told the NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, who repeatedly avoided answering a question on Parkes' maternity service crisis during last Thursday's sitting of the NSW Parliament.

Mr Donato, during Question Time, asked Mr Hazzard to provide assurance to the Parkes and Forbes communities that the NSW Government would restore and retain medical services in the Lachlan Health Service.

In his Notice of Motion, he demanded the government to immediately restore maternity services and maintain level three birthing at the Parkes Hospital, and to urgently source obstetric and anesthetic services for the health service.

He also called for a contingency and succession plan to be put in place to allow for the transition of future resignations and retirement of medical practitioners in the Lachlan Health District that services Parkes and Forbes.

Mr Donato's motion follows Western NSW Local Health District's announcement on June 12 to temporarily close the Parkes Hospital's maternity unit, forcing local mums to travel to Forbes to give birth.

The seriousness of the issue appeared almost a joke to Mr Hazzard and his state Liberal colleagues on June 20 when he refused to answer Mr Donato's question on three occasions, instead turning his focus to Mr Donato's Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party colleague Robert Borsak.

Mr Hazzard admitted it was a very important issue but was quick to change the topic to Mr Borsak's elephant hunting trips.

"When you ask questions of this government about your constituents, we will always behave responsibly and give you the answers," Mr Hazzard said before his tirade.

Mr Donato told the Health Minister the Mayor of Forbes Phyllis Miller OAM was present in the chamber and that they'd "appreciate a relevant answer".

"Stick to the issue and answer the question," he said.

Mr Hazzard continued his attempts to quarrel with the Member for Orange, who rose to his feet for a fourth time and said "there are a lot of people watching this in Parkes and Forbes right now who are shaking their heads at the way you are behaving".

"This is a legitimate question," he said.

It took Mr Hazzard five minutes to answer the question.

Mr Hazzard said he had been told that over the last 10 years the number of obstetrician GPs had gone down dramatically and that the last 12 months in particular had been a challenge for the two hospitals.

The decline of availability of obstetricians in Parkes, he said, was what prompted the review.

He did say he was "keen to see the services continue at Parkes and Forbes".

"But in discussions with local management, what they're telling me is that there were...women giving birth being compromised... They were worried about patient safety, and I think we should all be worried about that."

Mr Hazzard said he wanted to work with Western NSW Local Health District and the Parkes and Forbes councils to try and achieve services at both hospitals.

Thursday's Question Time reached the Parkes Shire Council chambers on Tuesday during its June meeting.

Councillors Neil Westcott and Alan Ward said Mr Hazzard's behaviour and the scene was embarrassing.

"As government ministers they should conduct themselves a bit better," Cr Ward said.

COST-CUTTING: Member for Orange Phil Donato said the decision to move Parkes' maternity services to Forbes is a budgetary measure and that the government's priorities were "very city-centric".

COST-CUTTING: Member for Orange Phil Donato said the decision to move Parkes' maternity services to Forbes is a budgetary measure and that the government's priorities were "very city-centric".

Mr Donato attended the Parkes Maternity Services rally outside the Parkes Hospital on Friday, showing the community his support.

"I won't stand by and tolerate, and see any health service cut to any area of my electorate, let alone regional NSW," he told the 200 or more protesters present.

"He (Mr Hazzard) doesn't want to see health services cut... But it's simply not good enough and I've raised this with Scott McLachlan (Western NSW Local Health District Chief Executive).

"I've made it quite clear to him, my view is the succession planning has been unsatisfactory. They've known about this issue for a number of years, what have they done?

"They've done nothing...now the problem's come home to roost."

Mr Donato said the decision to move Parkes' maternity services to Forbes is a budgetary measure and that the government's priorities were "very city-centric".

"In the week the budget was announced, when the government spruiked about their $800 million surplus... Think about what some of that money would do towards resolving this issue here in Parkes," he said.

Mr Donato said he would continue to fight for the Parkes maternity unit.

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