Shellharbour meeting opposes privately run hospital

Contributed from New South Wales

on Monday 5 June, hundreds of health workers, patients, concerned residents, union representatives and politicians packed an auditorium at The Shellharbour Club. They came to discuss the government’s proposed public-private partnership (PPP) for the rebuilding of the Shellharbour Hospital.

The meeting was angry because there had been no warning or consultation about the proposal.  A resolution against the PPP was passed unanimously.

Staff have waged an ongoing campaign against the proposal with several rallies held across the region since last year’s announcement.

Last month a petition signed by more than 12,000 Illawarra residents opposing the PPP was presented at Parliament House.

Participants voiced their concern that the proposal threatened the introduction of an American style health system, where “your wallet determines your quality of care”. Under the plan a private provider would operate the hospital.

Health workers, and their union representatives, also outlined their concerns.  NSW Nurses and Midwives Shellharbour representative Glenn Hayes said the plan could only lead to poorer patient outcomes.

‘’Our community deserves access to quality and affordable healthcare,’’ he said. ‘’However, no private provider in NSW provides ratios for patient care, meaning nurses will have a greater patient load. We’re also concerned that a private provider will employ less experienced, or less qualified, staff.’’

The crowd also heard from doctors, concerned that services would not be maintained by a private operator.

‘’In our ward, public and private patients are treated the same. They are all treated with dignity and respect and based on clinical need, not insurance status,’’ Illawarra palliative care services director Dr Greg Barclay said.

Rehabilitation network director Dr Geoff Murray added: ‘’This privatisation model has failed in all states…” and asked why governments still continued to test it, when the outcome is going to be the same.

A panel fielded questions about nurse-to-patients’ ratios, guarantees on services being maintained and possible foreign investment in the hospital.


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