AMA doctors accuse Labor of undermining confidence in health system

Labor’s health spokesman Walt Secord, left, with Opposition Leader Luke Foley. Photo: Jane Dyson n Medical Association NSW President Brad Frankum. Photo: Harriet Alexander
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NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner.

The head of the influential doctors lobby has called out the Opposition’s criticisms of the health system under minister Jillian Skinner as unhelpful and corrosive and urged Labor not to use hospitals to push its own political agenda.

n Medical Association NSW president Brad Frankum said he planned to meet Opposition Leader Luke Foley to address his concerns about Labor’s attacks on Mrs Skinner, which were having a knock-on effect for doctors and nurses working in the system.

“I would urge people on both sides of politics to not use critical incidents in hospitals as a way of pushing party political agendas because it’s very damaging to clinicians and hospitals but most importantly to patients in the system,” Mr Frankum said.

“I understand that politically, in the short term, it’s probably successful, but you’ve got to be careful what sort of health system you want to inherit if it does end up in getting you votes.”

Mrs Skinner weathered a series of health scandals last year, including the gassing of two babies at Bankstown Hospital that left one brain damaged and the other dead, chemotherapy under-dosing at St Vincents Hospital, body mix-ups at Royal North Shore Hospital in which a baby was wrongly cremated and unapproved antibiotic use by doctors.

Labor’s health spokesman Walt Secord has repeatedly called for her resignation, saying that she was covering up a crisis in the health system.

He told Fairfax Media he stood by his criticisms of the minister and would be delighted to meet Dr Frankum to discuss health policy.

“I want to work with doctors, nurses and allied health professionals to restore public confidence in the NSW health and hospital system, which has been destroyed by Jillian Skinner,” Mr Secord said.

“As the Labor health spokesperson, my job and energies are spent solely on standing up for patients and their families – and advocating for them when they are let down by the state government. That has occurred repeatedly under Jillian Skinner.”

“I think Mrs Skinner has done a woeful job as health minister. The new premier must replace Jillian Skinner immediately.”

Premier Mike Baird was under pressure to drop Mrs Skinner from the portfolio in the cabinet reshuffle that was to occur before he blindsided colleagues with his resignation announcement on Thursday.

Mr Foley told reporters on Friday that Mrs Skinner was like a “cockroach” in her tenacity.

“She would survive a nuclear winter,” he said.

Dr Frankum said while he expected Labor to hold the government to account, some of its attacks were irresponsible – such as pre-empting the findings of the St Vincents chemotherapy scandal – or nonsensical – such as blaming the government for the rise in Salmonella cases.

“I’m very non-partisan but I’m concerned about people not ambulance chasing because it really undermines the confidence that the public has in the health system.”

Clinicians were able to work more effectively when Andrew McDonald, a paediatrician by trade, was the health spokesman for Labor, he said.

“We were able to go on with our job without worrying that every incident in the hospital system would end up on the front page and that’s important because it had become extremely toxic through the last government’s term,” Dr Frankum said.

“I’m seeing a swing back to that now and I think that’s really retrograde.”

Mrs Skinner told her local newspaper the Mosman Daily on Thursday that she wanted to continue as health minister, but would support the leader in any event.

“I will do whatever Gladys wants me to do,” Mrs Skinner said.

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