Acting Health Minister Ernie Bridge today reacted with astonishment to a long statement by Opposition MLC George Cash on hospital waiting lists.
"It is the first time I can recall that Mr Cash has concerned himself with the plight of people waiting for non-urgent surgery," Mr Bridge said.
"One can only wonder at the motivation for his new-found concern," he said.
"As he must know, Health Minister Keith Wilson has been fighting hard to redress the Commonwealth's under-funding of the public hospital system - the root cause of the problem.
"The State Government is very concerned about the growing waiting lists for needed treatments at Western Australian public hospitals.
"People who share this concern should support Mr Wilson's efforts to get a fair deal for WA from the Commonwealth.
"It is notable that nowhere in Mr Cash's lengthy diatribe is there a skerrick of constructive thought on how to improve the situation.
"This is entirely consistent with the Opposition's lack of credibility on health care matters."
Mr Bridge said that since Medicare was introduced in 1984 the Commonwealth's contribution to total public hospital funding in WA had declined steadily, forcing the State Government to take on more and more of the cost burden.
It had now reached the stage where the State Government's contribution to public hospital funding had risen from 39 per cent to 55 per cent, while the Commonwealth's had dropped from 52 per cent to 39 per cent.
Despite this, the WA Government had allocated more than $20 million since 1988 in special waiting list funding.
"But we cannot be expected to carry an increasing proportion of the load while the Commonwealth systematically erodes its funding to WA," Mr Bridge said.
"Notwithstanding where the real responsibility for the problem rests, the WA Government is continuing its efforts to reduce waiting times.
"The 1991-92 Budget allocated $8 million in special funds to enable an additional 1500 operations to be conducted."
In addition, Mr Wilson had set up an expert group to examine factors that contribute to delays in needed treatments at public hospitals, and to develop new proposals to improve the situation.
"Despite difficult circumstances the WA Government remains committed to maintaining high standards of health care in the public hospital system.
"Since the Opposition plainly has no solution to the problem, Mr Cash and his colleagues would serve their constituents best by supporting Mr Wilson in pressing the Commonwealth to give WA a fair go."