Contributed from New South Wales
Public support for the Bowral and District Hospital is growing fast. Lack of clarity about the future of the hospital was raised at a council meeting last October.
Given that all of us need to access health care services at one point or another, what is available down the track concerns everyone.
The New South Wales government is considering transforming the state’s hospital system to a public-private partnership. This is what’s got people worked up and many suspect that this will pan out to full privatisation, despite government denials. It is feared that this is the reason for the lack of transparency.
Regional hospitals like the Bowral and District are especially vulnerable.
Hospital staff are in the meantime campaigning for their jobs. As it stands, they must re-apply for their positions. In addition to the unfairness, the local community stands to have the continuity of the medical expertise compromised. It seems that the new public-private regime aims to run a leaner ship. This indicates the wish to transform the facility into a new profit making opportunity.
The government has already called for expressions of interest from the private sector.
Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Dr Ewen McPhee said,
“The social accountability of private companies takes a back seat to the return for the board and the shareholders, so a private hospital needs to be able to make a profit.
“With a combination of fewer patients and the potential difficulty in recruiting doctors and specialists, it is entirely possible that [the hospitals] simply won’t offer the scope of services that are so needed in a rural area”. While there is concern regarding the recruitment of doctors, it is worth noting that there are many doctors out there currently in the search for jobs, which may suggest that perhaps changes should be made to the recruitment system of the hospital.
The government has allocated $50 million for the transformation. But where it is going is being kept a secret. It sounds suspicious.