NSW Labor today visited Grafton Base Hospital to highlight the unacceptable delay by the Nationals in providing its long-promised $7 million ambulatory care centre (“walk-in centre” for patients) and to detail growing elective surgery waiting lists.

NSW Labor leader Luke Foley, Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord and Labor MLC for Clarence, Courtney Houssos gathered outside Grafton Base Hospital to draw attention to the lack of support for health from the NSW Nationals.

On March 12, 2015, Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis, NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner and Deputy Premier Troy Grant promised to build a $7 million ambulatory care centre on the north western section of Grafton Hospital.

An ambulatory centre is a “walk-in” facility where patients – who do not need an acute hospital bed and remain in the community – receive treatment.

The central ambulatory care facility would house a renal dialysis unit, physiotherapy services, occupational therapy services, diabetes care, a fracture clinic, paediatrics and podiatry.

However, in the June 21 budget, Grafton Base Hospital received a mere $121,000 in planning money out of the $7 million promised for the centre.

Immediately after the budget, local medical staff expressed their disappointment with Grafton Base Hospital CEO Dan Madden in a staff email saying he was “very sad” and had hoped for a $3 million top-up. Delays in the delivery of health projects were occurring all over NSW from Grafton to Goulburn to Nepean in Sydney’s west

Emergency Department

  • Grafton Base Hospital’s emergency department sees about 22,000 patients a year with 25 per cent waiting longer than four hours.
  • In the January-March 2016 period, 301 patients waited longer than 10 hours in the emergency department.

Elective Surgery and elective surgery waiting times

  • As of March 31, there were 646 patients waiting for non-urgent elective surgery with the median wait of 252 days - well above the statewide median wait of 229 days. 
  • Cataract removal comprises the largest single group with 343 patients waiting.
  • There are also 63 patients waiting for knee replacements and 34 for hip replacements.

The figures are drawn from the independent Bureau of Health Information (BHI) released last month.


Median days waiting for non-urgent elective surgery

Number of patients waiting for elective surgery – as of March 31, 2016

Grafton Base Hospital









Median number of days to wait

Grafton Base Hospital

Cataract removal



Knee replacement






Hip replacement



Ear, nose and throat surgery








Statewide, since the Liberals and Nationals were elected in March 2011 – wait times have increased by eight days to 229 days and the number of patients on lists has increased from 66,000 to 74,000 in NSW.  And almost half of the patients are waiting for orthopaedic surgery and cataract removal.

Statewide BHI data showed that non-urgent elective surgery increased from 221 days in April 2011-June 2011 quarter to 229 days in the most recent reporting quarter (January-March 2016). In 2009, the median wait was 167 days.

Elective surgery includes: cataract removal, orthopaedic surgery, knee replacement, hip replacement, tonsillectomies, gall bladder, ear, nose and throat surgery, urology, gynaecology and hernia procedures.

Elective surgery lists grew in NSW from 66,000 (March 2011)  to 73,304 (October-December 2015) to 74,351 patients – as of March 31, 2016. Statewide, 691 fewer elective surgery procedures were performed in the period from January to March 31, 2016.

Orthopaedic surgery (19,056 patients) and cataract removal (15,088) had the most patients waiting comprising 49 per cent of all patients waiting.  In addition, there are 9,996 patients waiting for ear, nose and throat surgery and 6,264 for gynaecology procedures.

Quotes attributable to Opposition Leader Luke Foley

“The Liberals and Nationals are giving only a tiny fraction of their original promises to projects or token planning money and then claiming they are underway.  In Grafton, we see a mere $121,000 out of a $7 million project.

“Unfortunately, patients wait at every stage in NSW. They wait for an ambulance; they wait outside the emergency department; they wait inside the emergency department; they wait for a bed and then they are discharged early to free up the bed. They are now waiting for hospital upgrades and redevelopments.”

Quotes attributable to Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord

“North Coast patients have some of the longest waits in NSW and this is hitting older patients, especially those waiting for knee and hip replacements, cataract removal and young people wanting tonsillectomies.

“Across the board elective surgery lists have grown under the Liberal-National Government; wait times are getting longer and fewer procedures are undertaken. It is just not good enough.”

Quotes attributable to Labor spokesperson for Clarence Courtney Houssos MLC

“Grafton and the people of Clarence have every right to feel forgotten when it comes to health.

“This Government is hoarding the proceeds of a Sydney property boom rather than investing in regional hospitals that our growing population so desperately needs.”