Speech: Grievance debate – Healthcare

I rise to contribute to the grievance debate. At a time when Victoria needs to recover and rebuild, we need a government that is ready to look at the state and work out what it is we need to move forward.

We are a state that has been through two years of lockdowns. The Victorians in this state have done everything they can do as a community to get us through this difficult period. We are 95 per cent vaccinated. What an amazing result that is. What an amazing situation to find ourselves in.

So the Victorian community have done everything they have been asked to do. They were asked to
stay in their homes so that this government, the Labor government, could prepare the state, the health
system, so that we could manage the pandemic.

So it is really, really disappointing for the community to have gone through such difficult times and to have contributed to the future through their cooperation, to find that the health system was not prepared like they had been told.

But it is more than the health crisis—it is the ambulance crisis, it is the court system backlog, it is
everything you can look at from a state perspective compared to other states. We have failed here in
Victoria, but the people have done their bit.

And I stand here and I grieve, particularly for the regional Victorians, because they want to see a state that can recover and can actually rebuild to where we were.

But we cannot do that in regional Victoria with a government who continually ignores regional
Victoria. The state of our roads—

I have just been interjected by a member saying, ‘We do not’. Well, I think you only have to look at the state of our roads to see that this is a government which has been ignoring regional Victorians.

But the fact that the Labor government do actually say that they are not and cannot see how bad the roads are—as a beautiful example of their ignoring regional Victoria—tells you everything you need to know.

We are about to head into winter, and we heard the Premier say the other day that he is concerned
about the variant, and I worry that the only tool this government has is a lockdown.

The pandemic legislation that the government put into legislation in a rushed manner at the end of last year is indicative of the fact that there is only one tool. Well, we need no more lockdowns, and that is the
promise that we, the opposition, have made to the people of Victoria.

Lockdowns by postcode was always our approach, never blanket lockdowns that absolutely crucified this state. In the state of Victoria we had more time in lockdown than anyone else. In the state of Victoria we had more deaths than anyone else.

So when you look at what we have to measure to see whether it was a success or not, I think that is no measurement of success. In fact it is quite damning.

We are still seeing people being compromised about their ability to see family. Just on the radio this
week I heard a doctor who was very disturbed; she talked about her patient who was having a psychotic
episode and has been in hospital for two weeks, and the family have not been able to see them.

We need confidence back. I know each hospital and each aged care facility has the right to make their
own decisions, but the government needs to take a lead and give that confidence to the community
that there will be no more lockdowns.

We are now at 95 per cent vaccinated. We can face a winter and we have learned lessons and we will make sure we can work together to not face the same ruthless measures that this government put in place compared to other states.

We need to fix the mental health crisis that those two years of lockdowns have caused. The state of
our youth is extremely concerning. But it is not just the youth. It is the children, it is the teenagers, it
is the young adults. It is the young mums, the young dads, the families and the elderly. It is every age
group.

But when you see the figures for the youth, the most important thing was their family, and you
see that 25 per cent thought of suicide during the lockdowns. We need to fix that mental health system,
and we are committed to that.

We put a private members bill forward so that mental health workers could be recognised as qualified mental health practitioners—exactly what the Australian Counselling Association required.

My schools—Portland, Hawkesdale, Warrnambool, Heywood—desperately need assistance. We have been looking for mental health practitioners for years. There is no point in the government saying, ‘We’re fixing it’ when they have not got practical applications. We have certainly got the plan, but there is not one from this government to recover and really help with that mental health crisis.

The situation we have been in is because the government did not prepare for the pandemic in the health
sector as they said they were going to and because of the promises that they did not deliver on, shown
now by the 80 000 people on waiting lists for surgery that is vital, in pain, and we see people who
should not be waiting years addicted to often very significant drugs like Endone—they are also going
to have to address this once they have finally got their surgeries.

Being in code brown—no other state was in code brown. To recover and rebuild we will commit to slashing those hospital waitlists and getting on with elective surgeries, not living in fear and actually stopping surgery at the drop of a hat but having a plan, because we are prepared and we will take this state forward if elected in November.

How can the government have promised us that they had prepared for a pandemic for us to find out as
Victorians now that there are less people taking calls for ambulance than there were two years ago?

And to be told that this has been happening since 2016—it is not because of the pandemic. The government wants to continually make excuses that it is all about COVID.

Well, it is not about COVID, it is about how you have managed COVID, and to have less people taking calls is absolutely horrifying to hear. I am getting calls from ambulance officers, I am getting calls from nurses and I am getting calls from doctors. The health system is in crisis.

I have put to this Parliament so many examples already from my electorate. I have not even told you
yet about the lady who fell in her home. She was in her 90s, and it was an hour and a half before the
ambulance came. She is still in hospital over two months later—in fact I do not think she will leave
hospital. That is how significant it was. Leaving that lady on the floor for that period of time has
compromised her future.

I also have not mentioned many other terrible stories, but I have told you about the case in a restaurant just last week and I have told you about a lady who nearly bled to death.

How can the government prepare our future as a state and really recover and rebuild if they are not
thinking about a way forward? I am not hearing a plan. I am hearing about how they are just casting the regions aside.

I look at what is happening in Portland. Portland health last week made the shock announcement that they are not delivering maternity services for the next three months—they are on diversion.

The doctor, the obstetrician-gynaecologist who delivers those babies, who works 24 hours a day, seven days a week and probably has one weekend off a month, who is committed to that region, who has been there for six years, did not even get the respect of a conversation.

This is a hospital that has been trying to work out a way to deliver a service to the community, but the model that exists does not fit it.

A report that has been leaked says that there have been several reports prior to this report that have all
said the same thing: we need to adopt a new model. A model has been developed in Queensland; it is
adopted across that state.

It is actually used internationally, and that model is what Portland needs. The report says: no more reviews until that model is adopted. But it cannot be adopted by Portland health alone; it needs to be led by this government.

The government hid that report. They do not want to help Portland. They want Portland to be absorbed into another hospital, which will mean less services, and that is what we are seeing with the maternity services.

Here we had women being told last week that they will not be able to deliver their babies. The actual obstetrician who delivers the babies did not even know that day. In fact he was booking ladies to have inductions that very day but could not proceed with them.

If I was a mother and I had to have that worry of being an hour and a half from some service—the Portland hospital delivers low-risk pregnancies, not high-risk pregnancies, but if someone is having twins, which is a high-risk pregnancy, the Portland Hospital, with their obstetrician-gynaecologist, is there to actually stabilise them and make sure they are safe to move across to another surgery or to deliver those twins.

Or if they are having a haemorrhage or if they have got pre-eclampsia, he can manage and so can the
very, very effective midwives, who are very experienced.

I have spoken to midwives from Portland over the years, and they are very capable women and men. I do not actually know if there are any male midwives in Portland. If there are, I have not met them, but I am sure they are capable too, because they are very capable, professional people, particularly as they are in the regions because you do have to skill up to be very broad in your expertise.

I put on my Facebook page a call for women to share their stories with me because I was very
concerned. I worry about the future for mums Tiarna, Stacey and Jessa, who have all been impacted
by the maternity service suspension.

Tiarna wrote:
Due start of may and now very stressed I won’t make it to warni as my first daughters labour was 1 hr and 30 mins.

Stacey wrote: Due on 1 may with my first baby, absolutely terrified of giving birth on the side of the road

Jessa wrote: I’m due 4/4 with Baby #3. And will be delivering in Warrnambool. Last one was 2012, 3 hours from start to finish—and because Portland were not delivering babies we had to do the crazy drive over there, the roads are horrific and dangerous, especially when trying to get to hospital before the baby arrived. Well aware that this time I may not even have 3 hours from start to finish and am starting to pack an extra emergency bag in case we do end up having to deliver on the side of the road. Can’t say I’m thrilled with the prospect—especially due to history of needing medical intervention due to complications. The other alternative is to potentially deliver at home—and call an ambulance. But then where we live has limited phone reception (10 minutes out of Portland). So that also runs the risk of my husband having to leave me alone to drive to a location with phone reception.

The point is that these people are now very concerned, and so the public are getting behind the hospital.

There is a meeting on Sunday this week coming, 27 March, and I issue formally an invitation here,
through the Chair, to the Premier and the Minister for Health to attend that meeting and listen to the
stories of the people of Portland, who have lost their maternity services and who have had the doctors
come out and say the previous board did a wonderful job.

Now that we have a board that comes from outside of the region—and the minister has appointed them with the intent, we believe, to amalgamate the hospital—the doctors have come and stood together and said, ‘This is absolutely shocking for Portland’.

I invite the Minister for Health and I invite the Premier to come and listen to the people and be honest with the people of Portland about what the Labor government’s intentions are with Portland.

We cannot recover and rebuild as a state and have more and more people moving into our regions.
Portland is getting a lot of people moving to the region, which we are very excited about.

We have got lots of jobs. We have got real issues trying to fill our jobs. We have got terrific industry up there, great community. But we cannot recover and rebuild the state of Victoria while we cast aside hospitals like Portland, which needs a government-led model, which is reported as the way forward for this region.

The ambulance officers are even calling me. The reason they are calling me is that they are saying this
Portland hospital situation is dire. Some of them are not in Portland themselves, but they have to go
over to Portland to help because that is how the service works.

They tell me there are only two ambulances. They often have four transfers a night when they have to do night duty. So if you have got an ambulance out of the region doing a transfer to Warrnambool for a cardiac patient or who knows what and then you have got a motor car accident, what happens when a woman rings the ambulance because she has to travel an hour and a half to hospital and she is in fairly intense labour, like Tiarna and Jessa and the other mums from Portland, who have had a few babies?

It usually happens pretty quickly after the first time—or can happen pretty quickly after the first time. What are they supposed to do? Can you imagine the mental anguish these families must be going through?

So I do grieve for Portland. I do grieve for the people of South-West Coast when I see a government
that made promises about managing a pandemic and that said that health would be their focus.

The reality is that the ambulance crisis is very much a reality in our region. The hospital has been cast aside and left out on a limb, and the previous board did the best they could do when they knew the only way forward was to work with the government—but the government have been silent, so much so that they have actually cast that board aside, forced the chair to resign and then claimed that he did not resign.

It is bullying behaviour, and it is trying to cast aspersions and doubt on the capability of the people of
Portland. It is appalling, and it is not the way to treat the people of Victoria.