The Guardian March 19, 2003


NSW Elections
Major parties lack commitment to public health & education

Shocking revelations about the state of NSW schools and hospitals have 
been made on the eve of the State Election. And while Bob Carr has made 
grand promises for the future, serious questions must be raised about his 
government's last eight years in office.

Public schools

The size of primary school classes is one of the hot issues in the 
campaign.

The Liberals have promised to reduce the size of kindergarten classes to an 
"average" of 21, the Greens have promised to legislate a maximum of 20.

Labor has promised a kindergarten average of 20. However, Labor's 
commitment to this task must be viewed in light of the current class 
average of 26, and the highest teacher-pupil ratio of any state in 
Australia.

A recent census of 1714 NSW primary schools revealed that many schools have 
kindergarten classes of 30.

Muswellbrook South, Casino, Girraween and Dural primary schools have the 
ignominious honour of topping the state with 32.

Accusations have been made that the results of the census, taken in August 
last year, were deliberately suppressed.

The census also showed that some schools that attempted to keep class sizes 
down in the early years did so by sacrificing students in the later years.

Umina and New Lambton Public Schools both topped the state  an 
unbelievable 37 students per class in years five and six.

Large classes are not the only problem. Numerous primary schools are 
suffering from a classroom shortage.

In some schools classes are being held in libraries and teachers' 
staffrooms.

In Tuncurry a kindergarten class of 19 was taught for one month in a tiny 
audiovisual room with no chairs or desks.

The problem is not that there is a shortage of funding but how the funding 
is allocated. There seems to be plenty of dollars to go around when it 
comes to subsidising private schools.

What is lacking by the major parties is a commitment to public education.

Public hospitals

"Code Red" is the term used to describe when a hospital emergency is so 
overloaded that ambulances carrying patients with non-immediate life 
threatening illness are diverted to other hospitals.

How that Code Red state is determined has been the subject of red-hot 
debate.

Official Government figures stated that Nepean Public Hospital was 
operating under Code Red for 47 hours in October and 44 hours in November 
2002.

However a leaked document of raw data from the hospital emergency room 
concerned revealed a very different picture: 290 hours in October, 230 
hours in November.

Racing into damage control mode, the Government claimed the raw data was 
only used as a warning to the hospital that a situation was becoming 
serious.

Senior clinicians would then adjust operations across the hospital to avert 
reporting a formal Code Red.

"Quite often only minor changes are needed. It is therefore extremely 
misleading and irresponsible to rely on the raw data as an indicator of a 
hospital's status. To suggest otherwise is blatantly wrong", said Health 
Minister Craig Knowles.

An emergency room Code Red was simply an indicator that ambulances should 
take the patient to a nearby hospital to receive quicker treatment, 
explained Mr Knowles.

Yet it was also revealed that at least once in the past fortnight all three 
inner-Sydney hospitals, Prince Alfred, Prince of Wales and St Vincent's 
were simultaneously on Code Red  ambulances were left with nowhere to go.

Amongst a number of serious accusations, the whistleblower  an emergency 
room doctor from one of the hospitals  claimed that at one stage patients 
w ere being treated in the hospital carpark as they lay in ambulances 
because there were no beds available inside in the emergency rooms.

The doctor claimed that political pressure was being applied to hospitals 
not to declare Code Red.

The unnamed doctor declared in a written statement to the Herald: "A 
culture of fear permeates the health system and swift retribution would 
follow anyone who challenged the Department of Health or the hospital 
administration".

How to vote

The Communist Party of Australia has decided not to stand candidates in 
this election but urges readers in NSW to vote for other left and 
progressive candidates.

Look for candidates who put the interests of people first, who support the 
public health and education systems and are not tied to big business.

The CPA recommends Vote No. 1 Greens, then Socialist Alliance, Progressive 
Labour Party, progressive independents and ALP.

Make sure that the Liberal and National Parties, One Nation and its rival 
Group L (Pauline Hanson) are put last.

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