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Labor reveals satellite hospital plan as it doubles down on health

Decision 2020

A re-elected Palaszczuk government would build “satellite hospitals” in high-growth and under-serviced areas, including several marginal seats.

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On Bribie Island today to make the announcement, Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk claimed it was an “Australian first” initiative designed to bring services closer to communities and take pressure off major hospitals. The new facilities would offer accident and emergency services, dental services, chemotherapy, dialysis or other specialties, depending on local need.

Similar facilities exist elsewhere under different names, however it does add another layer to the structure of state-run health services in Queensland. It was not clear whether the new model could be used to reallocate services in regional areas.

Palaszczuk promised $265 million over four years, funded through borrowings, for satellite hospitals at Redlands, Brisbane Southside (near QEII Hospital), Pine Rivers (Petrie/Strathpine area), the Gold Coast, Ipswich, Caboolture and Bribie Island.

“We understand how important healthcare is, we understand how important it is to deal with the Covid crisis, but we also understand families and communities wanting to get health services closer to where they live,” Palaszczuk said.

Palaszczuk was in the electorate of Pumicestone, narrowly held by the LNP and with a large proportion of older residents managing ongoing health problems. The need to travel to Caboolture Hospital has been raised as an issue, complicated by traffic congestion and the apparent need for a new Bribie Island bridge.

The only preferred sites for satellite hospitals nominated by the government were at Nathan, where a facility might link with the Griffith University Campus, and at Pine Rivers where it might be part of the University of the Sunshine Coast expansion.

Palaszczuk took the opportunity to confirm Queensland had again seen no new cases of COVID-19 but insist the government was still on alert.

“We are seeing horrific second waves in Europe,” Palaszczuk said.

“I do not want to see that here. I will take whatever measures are necessary to keep the people of this state safe.”

Liberal National Party leader Deb Frecklington, meanwhile, was in Hervey Bay to promise a $300 million elective surgery blitz to reduce waiting lists.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the government had been able to reallocate elective surgery despite the disruption of the pandemic.

Miles dismissed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s insistence he stick to his day job, saying health was his day job and the Prime Minister was instead in Queensland to play politics and help the LNP.

Miles said a strong health response had always been the first stage of Queensland’s economic recovery, however the LNP had consistently pushed for restrictions to be eased, particularly on the border, to put business first.

He made the comments after The Australian newspaper reported Frecklington had told party donors in June she was proud of campaigning with the Prime Minister to ease the border restrictions. Another fundraiser is planned for tomorrow.

“All along, big business, Scott Morrison, Deb Frecklington, Josh Frydenberg, have been working together to undermine Queensland’s strong health response,” Miles said.

“If they had succeeded, Queenslanders’ lives would be at risk.”

Miles suggested Morrison “wants to elect a premier who will just do what he says”.

Palaszczuk encouraged Morrison to focus on jobs, as she was doing – she and Miles said the satellite hospitals would require hundreds of tradies to build – but at the same time criticised protesters who attacked the Prime Minister’s car. She called for a civil campaign.

After more minor campaign tensions in the seat of South Brisbane, where Labor heavyweight Jackie Trad risks losing her seat to the Greens, Palaszczuk sought to put questions over Trad’s future to rest.

Trad had a tumultuous term, starting out as Deputy Premier and a key minister and ending on the backbench after bruising Crime and Corruption Commission investigations. She has been the target of LNP attack ads. Today, Trad said she did not want to return to the frontbench if she and Labor won on October 31, something Palaszczuk was happy to agree to.

“She will not be returning to Cabinet if the Labor government is re-elected,” Palaszczuk said, without giving reasons or explaining how the decision was reached.

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