Staff buoyed by meeting over Shellharbour Hospital plan

Health Workers, patients and community members staged a rally outside Kiama MP Gareth Ward's on Valentine's Day, urging him - and his government - to 'Have a Heart'  and keep Shellharbour Hospital in public hands. Picture: Sylvia Liber
Health Workers, patients and community members staged a rally outside Kiama MP Gareth Ward's on Valentine's Day, urging him - and his government - to 'Have a Heart' and keep Shellharbour Hospital in public hands. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Shellharbour Hospital staff made their case against a proposed public-private partnership to new Health Minister Brad Hazzard at a meeting on Thursday.

Local delegates from the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, Health Services Union and Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation said the meeting with Mr Hazzard and Kiama MP Gareth Ward was a major step forward in their campaign.

Shellharbour Hospital is one of four NSW public hospitals set to be redeveloped under a public-private partnership (PPP) – a move condemned by many staff and community members.

“We’ve come further with this minister in the past couple of weeks than we did with the previous minister (Jillian Skinner) in six months,’’ NSWNMA Shellharbour delegate Glenn Hayes said.

“There’s been a lack of consultation, but Mr Hazzard was very receptive to what we had to say.

“Basically we’re concerned that private providers have an obligation to shareholders, while currently the public health system is outcome focused and we’d like it to remain that way.

“We’re also concerned that private operators don’t have the same nursing ratios or skill mixes, so standards will be affected.’’

Dr Francoise Joseph, an ASMOF delegate and staff specialist in rehabilitation medicine at Port Kembla Hospital, was also buoyed by the meeting. ‘’We want to make sure that, whatever system is put in place, that the complex needs of our patients are met,’’ he said.

Expressions of interest to build and run a redeveloped Shellharbour Hospital closed in October. A number of bids were received, with the decision due in late March.

However, Mr Ward said Mr Hazzard had made it clear that he would not be rushed into making a decision.

“He’s very open-minded and wants to hear from all the stakeholders, both for and against the proposal,’’ Mr Ward said.

“I’m also interested in exploring how we can provide the best quality health services in the region – if it doesn’t prove to be under a PPP, I’m not backing it either.’’