The state government has refused to reveal how much money is in the budget for hospital beds and better school buildings, despite growing pressure.
Opposition Leader John Robertson was in Maitland yesterday when he slammed the government for failing taxpayers.
“Barry O’Farrell owes Maitland Hospital a big injection in the upcoming state budget,” he said. “In six weeks’ time the Premier must deliver funding to ease pressure on its overstretched emergency ward.”
Mr Robertson pointed to the poor triage figures from the October-December 2011 quarter. Only 50 per cent of people with imminent, life-threatening symptoms, were seen to within nine minutes. The clinically approved target is for at least 80 per cent of these triage 2 patients (heart attacks and burns) to be treated within 10 minutes.
Opposition spokesman for health Andrew McDonald said there were simply not enough beds. “Until Jillian Skinner funds the new beds and medical staff necessary to meet demand the wait at Maitland will just get longer,” Dr McDonald said.
Ms Skinner defended the apparent lack of beds.
“Maitland has 136 beds available for admission from the emergency department,” she said. “It’s important to note that the NSW government is being more transparent about bed numbers than Labor.”
Mr Robertson also expressed concern about the number of demountable buildings in state schools.
“I’m also concerned about under-investment in local schools, with 676 demountable classrooms in the Hunter and Central Coast,” he said, adding that the number of demountables across the Hunter and Central Coast was the second highest of any NSW region.
“Many of them are mouldy or substandard, with structural problems and were never intended to be permanent facilities,” he said.
Education Minister Adrian Picoli declined to reveal what might be in the budget for schools and defended the department’s handling of the issue.
“In 2011/12, approximately $13 million is being spent to refurbish, maintain, replace and upgrade demountable buildings,” he said.
“Future replacement of demountables with permanent buildings may occur as part of locally prioritised future capital works projects.”
Maitland MP Robyn Parker had not returned the Mercury’s calls by Thursday evening.