NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley announced today that the Labor Party will contest the Orange by-election to give voters in the Central West seat a real choice.

Health cuts, the chemotherapy under-dosing scandal, forced council mergers, job losses and the shutdown of the greyhound industry will all be issues in the Labor campaign.

Speaking in Orange today, Mr Foley said the seat had been neglected and taken for granted by the Nationals, who are being led by the nose by NSW Liberal Premier Mike Baird.

Mr Foley said the by-election would give people the opportunity to lodge a protest vote.

Last week the Baird-Grant Government announced that the Orange by-election will not be held until November 12 this year – meaning it will be six months since the seat was vacated by the sitting member.

Labor members in Orange will be given the opportunity to put forward a candidate to fill the seat through a rank and file preselection.

Nominations open today for preselection and close Friday, 19 August 2016. A ballot, if required, will take place on Saturday, 27 August.

Orange has one of the busiest regional hospitals in NSW and sadly it has been embroiled in the chemotherapy under-dosing scandal that began at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney.

A report on Dr John Grygiel’s work at Orange and Bathurst Hospitals is not due to be published until September.

Orange Hospital’s emergency department attends to more than 28,000 patients a year. About 24 per cent of those patients waited longer than four hours for treatment.

As for elective surgery, Orange has some of the longest waits in the State. Currently, there are 1,470 patients waiting for elective surgery.  The median wait for non-urgent elective surgery is 330 days – and the median wait for ear, nose and throat is 324 days; cataract removal (343 days); gall bladder (52 days); tonsillectomy (336); hip replacement (326) and knee replacement (337 days).

Orange is also under pressure with the second highest number of cancer complications in NSW.

A recent Bureau of Health Information report found that 23 per cent – almost a quarter – of patients reported that they experienced complications related to the care they received in Orange.

On top of all this, there are deep divisions within Orange hospital’s cardiology department and concerns about a local health district instruction “silencing” medical staff and demanding they no longer discuss management problems at Orange Hospital.

Quotes attributable to Opposition Leader Luke Foley

“Orange is the safest of safe National seats. Labor hasn’t won it for 72 years. I am determined to offer voters the opportunity to protest against the Baird Government’s city-centric decisions.

“The shutdown of the greyhound industry and the swallowing up of Cabonne Shire Council are decisions made by Mr Baird in Sydney at the expense of Central West people and the National Party just rubber-stamps those decisions.

“Labor will present a real alternative at this by-election.”

Quotes attributable to Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord

“The Nationals have failed the patients of the Central West. At all stages, they wait for an ambulance, they wait in emergency department and they wait for a bed.

“Unfortunately, when patients are at their most vulnerable – suffering from cancer - they are being let down by the Baird Government.

“As for the chemotherapy under-dosing scandal at six NSW hospitals. Patients at Orange and Bathurst were only alerted to the complete details of this scandal because of the media and whistleblowers. Health Minster Jillian Skinner kept it silent for too long, she needs to be replaced.”