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Sell  TAB to fund health
Pay day: The AMA says the State Govt should consider selling the TAB. Picture: Gerald Moscarda/The West Australian

WA's main medical group says the State Government should consider selling off the TAB betting agency on the proviso that the proceeds go to health, including help services for problem gamblers.

The Australian Medical Association WA said yesterday it would support the sale of the agency to fund health services - including mental health - which were facing major cuts.

Last week, Treasurer Troy Buswell said the Government-run Lotterywest and the TAB could be sold in a bid to reduce the State's mounting debt, though initially he would look at divesting physical assets such as wastewater treatment plants.

He said the Government's asset sales task force had appointed external consultants to help develop a divestment program over the next few months.

The AMA WA's vice-president Michael Gannon said if there was an opportunity to sell off any assets, the money raised should be used for the most pressing needs such as hospital and community health services.

"And it's not necessarily the case that something like the TAB needs to stay in Government hands, because the NSW and Queensland governments managed to divest themselves of it," he said.

"But we know problem gambling is an issue so some of the proceeds of any sale would have to go into health services for those affected."

Dr Gannon said the Government was trying to get back its triple-A credit rating but it could not forget the need to provide high quality health care now.

His association was expecting a tough 12 months next year for health services, with big concerns about potential cuts.

"There are already reports from our members about cutbacks at Sir Charles Gairdner and King Edward Memorial hospitals, with a freeze on new staff," he said.

"The environment is very tight, and we also have to get Fiona Stanley Hospital up and running in the next 12 to 18 months."