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State Member for Cessnock Clayton Barr says NSW Labor will introduce legislation to the NSW Parliament to prevent any attempt to place a co-payment on NSW Public Hospitals – following Tony Abbott and the Liberals introducing a fee to visit a GP.

Under the legislation, NSW Labor will seek to amend Section 75 of the Health Services Act 1997 to prevent a patient in a public hospital from being charged for any health service that is currently free.

Mr Barr said he was very concerned that Mike Baird will follow the lead of Tony Abbott and introduce a fee to visit a public hospital in NSW.

He says Mike Baird’s changing language on whether his government would introduce a fee – including his claim that ‘it is part of the broader discussion that we want to have on health’ – would be of great concern to the local community.

Initially Mike Baird said of the new fee:

We will be ruling that out.” (Mike Baird, Hansard, Wednesday 14 May 2014) 

But only days later standing shoulder to shoulder with Tony Abbott he weakened his position and said of a fee on hospital visits:

“We’ll be considering and obviously watching events as they unfold… We’re in a position where we will monitor the impact on Emergency Departments and others – it is part of the broader discussion we want to have on health.” (Mike Baird, Media conference with Tony Abbott, 16 May 2014) 

“Labor will defend the right for members of our local communities to access healthcare at our local Hospitals regardless of how much money they may have,” Mr Barr said.

“This bill will ensure that the services currently provided free of charge at Cessnock, Kurri Kurri, Maitland and John Hunter Hospitals remain free and accessible to everyone,” he said.

“Local families have already been stung by Tony Abbott and the Liberals’ broken promises with $25 billion in cuts to health and education, the introduction of a new tax to visit a GP and a petrol tax increase,” Mr Barr said.

“The local community needs an assurance that Mike Baird can stand up to Tony Abbott and will fight to protect our hospitals from a new tax – he can demonstrate that by supporting Labor’s new law to protect our hospitals,” he said.

“Locally, it’s about time Robyn Parker stood up for Maitland Hospital – a Hospital that is just as important to Cessnock as it is to Maitland. This is too important to just toe the party line,” Mr Barr said.