Federal Treasurer Chris Bowen has announced that the federal government will intervene into the ongoing debate over the Brisbane Sexual Health Clinic on Roma Street and provide $3.5 million in funding that will keep the clinic open till 2014/15.
News of the imminent closure of Biala continued to upset the Queensland LGBTI community since the Metro North Health and Hospital Service (MNHHS) announced in April that it would be partially closing the clinic. The decision has attracted widespread criticism, most notably and recently from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
Bowen made the announcement for the ‘emergency funding’ outside of Biala this morning with federal Labor candidate for Brisbane Fiona McNamara.
“Today’s announcement of $3.5 million from the Rudd Labor Government will allow the Biala clinic to remain open for a further year, employing around 30 staff and continuing to provide critical health treatment, information and advice to local people,” Bowen said.
“Despite advice from prominent health experts about the importance of this service to the Brisbane community, the Newman LNP Government has chosen to ignore such expertise and proceed with record cuts to the Queensland health and community services sector.”
McNamara echoed the Treasurer’s remarks and welcomed the news.
“I’ve been campaigning to keep Biala open along with members of the community and local nurses,” McNamara said.
“This announcement is great news especially for the nurses employed at Biala and locals who use their health services.”
The MNHHS reasoned that its decision to close the part of Biala that deals with general sexually transmitted diseases, Clinic 1, was that the free and confidential ‘walk-in’ healthcare provided by Biala was a duplication of services that could be offered by private GPs and other heath care providers.
An independent audit by accounting firm Deloittes was used to justify the decision, despite it failing to mitigate serious issues created by the cutback of services. The part of Biala that deals with HIV/AIDS, Clinic 2, was to remain open despite Clinic 1’s closure.
Queensland Nurses Union secretary Beth Mohle hopes that the funding will eventually lead to the “permanent restoration” of Biala’s full services.
“This specialised service was an important part of Queensland’s infectious diseases management system and it is good news for the people of Queensland that it can now be restored for the next 12 months,” Mohle said.
Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg labelled the announcement a “ridiculous misuse of funding for political purposes”.
“If the Labor Government wants to contribute $3.5 million to sexually transmitted illnesses treatment they can give it to the Metro North Medicare Local,” Springborg told Fairfax.
“They are the ones with STI responsibility under Mr Rudd’s National Health Reforms.”
The funding – that is not part of an election promise and has already been budgeted for – will see all 42 staff from both Clinic 1 and 2 continue to provide critical health care and information to people across the state till 2014/15.
(Photo: Genevieve Siddle)