News

Cut effects 'may not be felt for years'

PUBLIC health responses to oil spills, Hendra outbreaks and water contamination issues in regional areas will be in jeopardy under 4000 anticipated job cuts to Queensland health, a preventative health employee says.

Phil Carswell, senior project officer in the Chief Health Officer division, said on Monday the true effect of any cuts to environmental health, nutrition and health promotion would not necessarily be felt for 20 to 30 years.

Mr Carswell, who has worked in health promotion for 30 years, said preventative health represented just 3% of the health budget and he believed people in the "bush" would lose out.

"I think governments have a responsibility to provide access to everybody on a fair and equal basis," he said.

"I'm worried people in the bush might not have the choices we do in town.

"I think people in country Queensland need to know their services are going to be compromised and their choices are going to be limited."

Together union secretary Alex Scott said he expected to hear about a significant loss of services around regional Queensland in coming weeks as services closed.

He said he would expect to see a dramatic decrease in the quality of public health services in the next five to 10 years as a flow-on effect.

"As health boards are under funded, they'll look at areas to cut and it's easier to cut an area that you're not going to see benefits of for 10-15 years than it is to deal with short-term crises," he said.

"The major issues of concern is that the government has consistently tried to say that these job cuts are going to be occurring within the broader (Brisbane) CBD.

"Clearly with 4000-5000 job cuts being targeted in Queensland health, it's an attack on both the public health area and the centralised services before they get transferred to the regions and make the local hospital boards accountable for the services."

A spokesman for the Health Minister said the suggested job cuts were substantially inflated and he believed there had been "confusion" over the number of jobs "devolved to regions" under a Queensland Health restructure.

He said there would be no final number on job cuts until internal consultation and feedback had occurred.

The spokesman said there were hundreds of public health and environmental workers in regional Queensland who were listed on the books at corporate headquarters.

He said those people would remain in the regions and become accountable to the local hospital boards, counted within their job numbers instead.

Mr Carswell said there was fear and distress among health employees about not just their jobs but the health of Queenslanders generally.

He said he and his colleagues could "do things now" to stop chronic diseases, diabetes, strokes and cancers, noting they had already reduced the smoking rate to 14%.

"People are in distress because we know the health system cannot possibly bear the burden that's going to be facing it in the next few years," he said.

"If we don't do something about prevention now, all the state budget will be swallowed up by health by the year 2030.

"I worry about public health being able to sustain itself in the coming years.

"I worry about people out in the bush who might not have access to services because their local public health unit might be closed down or merged into a larger hospital.

"We've got to get away from this notion that health is just about what happens in hospitals.

"We've got to keep people healthy so they stay out of hospitals.

"They can build all the hospitals they want but if they don't do something about preventative health, those hospitals will always be overflowing

"Our job at the moment is to get people to eat better food, to do more exercise, to stop smoking, to do things that are going to help keep their health in tact.

"It's not like putting on a splint on or giving someone a pill, or an injection. Health promotion is about changing human behaviour."

Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said the rolling job cuts were creating huge uncertainty and the government should not go through with its job cuts.

"These massive job cuts are having a huge effect on Queensland families," she said.

"There will be a lot of unhappy people having Christmas this year."

Topics:  job cuts, public servants, queensland health, redundancies




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