Queensland health minister Cameron Dick. Photo: Michelle Smith Lawrence Springborg. Photo: Robert Shakespeare
The new Queensland health minister Cameron Dick said not one cent of a $77 million budget set aside for the previous government’s Wait Time Guarantee surgery program was actually allocated to patient care.
Mr Dick said on Sunday he was shocked to discover a $15 million component had been set aside exclusively for advertising campaigns, with the rest for red tape including consultants.
“$77 million equates to an additional 4000 hip replacement surgeries,” he said.
“Mr Springborg and the LNP had plenty of money to put ads on television, and no money to put patients in beds.”
The Wait Time Guarantee program aimed to provide elective surgery for certain surgeries within the medically recommended time, or be offered the next available treatment in a public or private hospital at no cost.
But Mr Dick said he’d also found 114,000 Queenslanders were waiting longer than clinically recommended times for specialist appointments.
That figure represented half of the so-called “waiting list for the waiting list”.
“Mr Springborg simply cost-shifted the cost of the program on health and hospital services,” Mr Dick said.
“They were expected to find the funding to do the surgery.”
Mr Dick indicated the program would be cut, but would not speculate on when.
“Certainly… it gives all Queenslanders pause to reflect on the LNP and what their priorities were,” he said.
“I’ll be discussing matters with my cabinet colleagues… and I’ll be making an announcement about what we plan to do as soon as possible.”
He said $32 million was allocated in the 2014/2015 year, but did not yet have an exact figure on what had been spent since the program was announced last November.
“A significant amount of money was spent over the last three months, right up until the election on the 31st January,” he said.
“Those ads were run during the election campaign and I don’t think that’s an appropriate use of taxpayers’ money.”
Mr Dick said he remained supportive of advertising funding for public health information campaigns on topics like diabetes, heart disease and vaccinations.
“It is expensive to provide services to Queenslanders, so the focus should be on that care,” he said.
“That’s where the money should go, not on self-promotion and self-publicity that the LNP seemed to focus on.”
Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said the $77 million had been clearly earmarked for chronic disease prevention.
“This money is set aside for advertising and education for smoking, obesity, and the first campaign on TV for HIV in 10 years,” he said.
“It is so important we do that so people understand chronic disease impacts upon them, their family, and the health system.”
He said Mr Dick was on the run and casting quick judgements because he was working blind.
“This government is plucking figures out of the air to run their own agenda, because they’ve got no plan,” he said.
“They don’t want to, and they can’t put in place any plan that tackles the waiting list, or the issue of chronic disease.”
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