Shellharbour Hospital fight hits the streets

Kaitlyn Newell-Glasser watches on as Shellharbour Hospital nurse Chevonne Cowell chalks a car on Saturday. Picture: Sylvia Liber
Kaitlyn Newell-Glasser watches on as Shellharbour Hospital nurse Chevonne Cowell chalks a car on Saturday. Picture: Sylvia Liber

With just a few strokes of a chalk texta, the union-led fight against a public-private partnership (PPP) at Shellharbour Hospital hit the streets at the weekend.

Dozens of cars were graffitied, at the owners’ request, with messages of opposition during a NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) chalk protest on Saturday morning – the union’s latest attempt to ward off the change and drive their message across the community.

“Save Shellharbour Hospital” and “#keepitpublic” were among the messages penned onto vehicles’ windows during the event, held at the old Shellharbour City Council chambers in Warilla.

The NSW government revealed the PPP plan for Shellharbour Hospital more than a year ago and NSWNMA member Nadia Rodriguez said uncertainty remained. 

“The government says they’re listening. [Health Minister] Brad Hazzard hasn’t actually come to the community and spoken to them,” Ms Rodriguez, a Shellharbour Hospital nurse, said.

More than 40 cars were chalked on Saturday, with many done before the event.

Other car owners have flagged an interest in being part of the campaign.

“We commute in our cars everyday … and it clearly states a message to this government that we want our hospitals to remain public,” she said.

“We don’t want them privatised, they are not up for sale, so that’s why we thought the cars would be great because people see it.”

The Mercury contacted Mr Hazzard’s office about the status of the Shellharbour Hospital PPP and was initially directed to comments the minister made during last month’s budget estimates.

At the time, Mr Hazzard said concerns raised by nurses, doctors and community members about the PPP model had seen him “go back to the drawing board”.

“I have not come to a final conclusion,” he said on September 6. In a statement on Sunday, Mr Hazzard said he was reviewing “any possible avenues to get even more facilities for locals”.

“Whatever decision is made, it will be in the best interests of the community and public patients will be treated free as they currently are,” he said.