Representatives from the Nurses & Midwives Association and the ACTU rallied on Day Street against the Medicare cuts by the federal government, changes to nurses’ Sunday penalty rates, and the removal of the need to have a registered nurse on duty 24/7 at aged care facilities.

Labor candidate for Macquarie Susan Templeman said the numbers at the protest were down as she was told the hospital was operating on a skeleton staff due to a third of Hawkesbury Hospital staff having gone home in the morning after Hawkesbury SES advice that North Richmond bridge would close at 10.30am. 

Nurses & Midwives Association organiser Rita Martin addresses rallyers outside Hawkesbury Hospital on Monday, June 6.

The hospital would not confirm how many went home. “Hawkesbury District Health Service was impacted today by the bridge closures, with a small number of caregivers returning home,” a hospital spokesperson said, adding that back-up caregivers were arranged for the afternoon and evening shifts so patient care would not be impacted.

Hawkesbury Community Union Alliance’s Adam Hall said to the rallyers “we call on the good folk of the Hawkesbury to put the Liberals last in the election and stand up for Medicare”. 

Ms Templeman said “what’s interesting is seeing the Liberal government taking the heat out of the Medicare cuts by delaying them”.  

“We know this will lead to pathology cuts,” she said. “All the tests they do over the course of someone’s life will cost several hundred dollars more. 

“Only Labor can be trusted to stand up for Medicare. Every Liberal government has attacked it. You might not need it now at 20, 30, even 40, but when we’re 50, 60, 70 we’ll need a strong Medicare.”

Nurses & Midwives Association organiser Rita Martin said by freezing Medicare payments for six years it was a co-payment by stealth.

Macquarie MP Louise Markus responded that the Government was not changing the Medicare rebate payable to patients. 

“I want to make this very clear – your Medicare rebate on pathologytests will not change and pathology providers will continue to be able to bulk bill,” Mrs Markus said.

“We are simply removing a poorly targeted pathology test incentive of between $1.40 and $3.40 paid directly to pathology providers – which are often dominated by large multi-national companies, making billion dollar profits. The Coalition wants to support patients over profits.”

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