FUNDING RETHINK: Nurses Kerrie Vane, Lynne Harris and Deborah Walganski. Photo: Geoff O’Neill 200516GOA01MORE chronically ill patients will be seen by hospitals and staff retention could take a hit, according to NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association members in Tamworth – who say their hands have been tied by the cuts to health in this year’s budget.

Seven NSWNMA members stood with their hands literally tied, in front of a billboard near Moonbi on Friday, calling on the federal government to rethink recent cuts to health to the tune of $57 billion.

Local registered nurse and midwife Alison Fisher said Friday’s protest was a call for support from the public.

“If they cut the Medicare levy, therefore bulk billing, then there will be more privatisation,” she said. “We will be seeing an increase in chronic illnesses that will mean more admissions to hospital.”

Ms Fisher also said the cuts to Medicare bulk billing incentives would make healthcare less affordable for the general public.

“People will get sick and not be able to afford healthcare; Medicare has been our stopgap for so long,” she said.

“It was introduced to stop inequality in health care.”

Fellow member Kelly Ison said cuts to penalty rates would have an impact on retention rates in country hospitals.

“If we lose our penalty rates, we won’t be able to retain these staff, especially on weekends and night duties,” Ms Ison said.

“They won’t give up their social life to be a nurse.”

Tamworth aged care nurse Gerard Ryan said federal funding had been a constant struggle.

“We just don’t have enough staff in any facility across the country to properly give care to people, and it’s getting harder,” Mr Ryan said.

“It’s a lot worse in regional areas because there’s a lot less facilities in regional areas.”

The local nurses said they were also hoping to talk with New England MP Barnaby Joyce about their concerns.

Ms Fisher hoped Mr Joyce would “have a rethink about these cuts and what they mean to everyday Australians”.

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