Internal polling conducted by the ALP has found that voters in marginal seats are more likely to vote for Labor following Kevin Rudd’s controversial policy announcement about the processing and resettlement of asylum seekers. Buoyed by such polling, Mr Rudd called a press conference yesterday afternoon to outline his plans to reform Australian hospitals and healthcare.
The Prime Minister was joined by the Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, to announce that people who choose to walk or drive to hospital emergency departments will be denied medical assistance on arrival. “For too long people have put their lives at risk by refusing to wait for an ambulance and driving to emergency departments themselves,” Mr Rudd said. Ms Plibersek indicated that the government’s new policy would commence immediately.
Three hours after the policy was implemented Mildred Tomlinson, a senior citizen from Sydney’s outer suburbs, phoned emergency services to request an ambulance because of an irregular heartbeat. Upon being told that the wait for an ambulance could be anywhere between three and five hours Ms Tomlinson, who believed she was going to die, asked her neighbour to drive her to the hospital. When Ms Tomlinson arrived at the emergency department she was refused entry by police. She remains in a critical condition.
When questioned by the media Ms Plibersek said that she felt “conflicted” by Ms Tomlinson’s circumstances but was confident “that process has to be followed”. Bill Shorten, appearing on the ABC’s Q&A programme, stated that he made “no apologies for preventing people who have access to a car jumping the queue”. Leading medical professions have condemned Mr Shorten’s comments claiming that people cannot be expected to stay at home and die waiting for an ambulance to arrive. “What would you do if your child needed medical attention and you were told that you had to wait hours for an ambulance to arrive? Wouldn’t you do everything you could to prevent them from dying?” said one professional.
The Department of Health has begun an intensive advertising campaign aimed at deterring people from arriving at hospitals in cars. One video featured on the department’s website, entitled ‘Queue Jumpers’, reveals footage of children with cancer crying when they discover that they are not permitted to enter the hospital.
The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, praised the government’s decision for its “lack of humanity” but claimed that the Coalition “would be even tougher, even harsher, even more cruel”. When asked specifically about Ms Tomlinson’s situation Mr Abbott claimed that “shit happens”.