QUEENSLAND’S new Health Minister has been slammed by the Cook Shire Council leadership after an unannounced visit to Cooktown Hospital today.
Shannon Fentiman and Member for Cook Cynthia Lui flew into Cooktown this morning and met with hospital staff, but did not take the time to meet with the council.
“I heard about it second-hand from people who were on the plane with them,” mayor Peter Scott said.
“I think it’s very rude and goes against the usual protocol.
“Just yesterday I had (Senator) Anthony Chisholm here and I drove him around town for an hour-and-a-half and we discussed all things Cooktown and Cook Shire.
“I’m very disappointed that the Minister has not let us know about her visit or made the time to have a conversation.”
Cape York Weekly was also kept in the dark about the visit and has contacted the Minister’s office for comment.
On Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Minster said: “The priority for this visit was to meet with frontline health workers, about returning maternity services to Cooktown.
“The minister is always happy to speak with Mayor Scott at any time, but as Health Minister, her priority will always be frontline staff.”
Ms Fentiman’s lack of consultation with Cook Shire flies in the face of her comments in the media this morning when speaking about a review of the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service.
“I want to talk to the community about what they want to see in a review, I know they want to be involved as community leaders and I think that’s appropriate,” the Minister told the Cairns Post.
She was recently sworn in as the Health Minister after Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk removed Yvette D’Ath from the portfolio in May.
Cr Scott said: “I’ve met her before in the past and she was very nice so I’m not sure why we didn’t get the chance to sit down with her.
“This council has been very proactive in supporting the government and Queensland Health through a number of initiatives.
“We’ve taken big steps to get more staff accommodation here for government workers and recently came up with a policy to incentivise builders and developers.
“Every day we see the helicopter fly in and pick someone up at $35,000 a pop and it costs the government millions of dollars every year to do so.
“This council has been pushing for a new hospital and better services so fewer people have to be transported to Cairns.”
Deputy mayor Robyn Holmes has been on the working group for the new Cooktown Hospital and said she was disappointed the council was snubbed by the Health Minister.
“It was very disappointing to hear that the Health Minister and Member for Cook flew into Cooktown this morning to meet with hospital staff,” she said.
“Neither the mayor nor myself were invited to meet or comment on the provision of health services in Cooktown, including birthing.
“Without a birthing service, the knock-on effects – such as family separation for up to eight weeks, mental health issues, and social and emotional wellbeing leading into birthing – seem to go unnoticed.
“Cook Shire has recently conducted a community survey with health services high on the shire’s list of priorities.
“Given the council is more frequently challenged on the current level of service provision, one would feel the current government is not committed in delivering an acceptable standard of health services.
“Reading today’s Cape York Weekly, I totally agree with comments made by Dr Alex Dunn that services should not be determined by postcode.
“Health statistics have illustrated that people in Cape York are dying 10 to 15 years younger than the national average.”
Cr Holmes said the Queensland government had many emerging challenges in Cape York.
“If we were given the opportunity to meet with the Health Minister, we would have spoken about the necessity of health services in Lakeland given the population growth, with around 800 people living there at the moment,” she said.
“We could have also discussed the potential support for the Regional Aged Care Facility that Cook Shire is progressing with in partnership with the Hope Vale and Wujal Wujal councils.”