Shellharbour ‘smells a rat’ over hospital: Watson

Shellharbour MP Anna Watson, with Member for Keira Ryan Park outside Shellharbour Hospital earlier this year. Picture: Robert Peet

Shellharbour MP Anna Watson, with Member for Keira Ryan Park outside Shellharbour Hospital earlier this year. Picture: Robert Peet

The NSW government’s plan to redevelop Shellharbour Hospital under a public-private partnership (PPP) has been slammed by an Illawarra Labor MP in State Parliament. 

A week after Health Minister Jillian Skinner announced the hospital would be one of five across the state to be built and operated under a PPP, Shellharbour MP Anna Watson used a parliamentary address on Wednesday to criticise the decision.  

“If the government thought the people in my electorate would greet that news with great enthusiasm then it was mistaken,” Ms Watson said.  

“The people of Shellharbour understand a private-public partnership to mean profits for big business, cuts in services and job losses. The people of Shellharbour smell a rat.”

Ms Watson used her Private Member’s statement to say PPPs in health care have “a dismal track record”, citing such a partnership at Port Macquarie Hospital failed more than two decades ago.

In that case, the government was forced to buy the hospital back after the NSW Auditor-General found flaws in its operation.  

Ms Watson even suggested Ms Skinner and parliamentary secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward were “in for a world of pain”. 

“When this ideological frolic goes pear-shaped – and it will – the failures of the PPP will stick to them like the proverbial to a blanket,” she said.  

Earlier on Wednesday, Ms Watson used question time in the Legislative Assembly to ask Ms Skinner why the people of Shellharbour weren’t told of the “government's intention to privatise the hospital” at the 2015 election.

In response, the minister moved to correct Ms Watson’s “misconception”.   

“The government is not privatising any hospital. The government is asking the non-government sector to express an interest in partnering with the government to build new facilities,” Ms Skinner said.

“The member for Shellharbour should be excited about having a much bigger hospital in her electorate than could be provided by government funding alone.”

Ms Skinner reiterated “no public patient will pay a cent for any treatment in a public hospital”.

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