NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham told Shellharbour Hospital staff at a Monday rally that they could “win” their fight to keep the facility in public hands.
The Greens health spokesman said his party would stand alongside the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association and Health Services Union in their opposition of a public-private partnership.
In September NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner invited expressions of interest from non-government operators to ‘’design, build, operate and maintain’’ redevelopments at Shellharbour, Bowral, Goulburn, Wyong and Maitland hospitals.
Last week Mrs Skinner confirmed the government would push ahead with those plans at all but Goulburn hospital after receiving a number of bids.
However Mr Buckingham said: ‘’(Premier) Mike Baird doesn’t have a mandate for this outrageous assault on a key public service; he didn’t take it to the state election.
‘’We’ve already seen the government back away from Goulburn – we will win the fight against it at Shellharbour too.
‘’Because if there is one thing Australians demand and will fight for, it’s universal access to a publicly funded, operated and maintained health system.’’
Mr Buckingham said the government should have learnt from the privatisation of Port Macquarie Base Hospital 20 years ago.
‘’There was a massive blowout in costs for the delivery of the service, and terrible outcomes in terms of quality of that service,’’ he said. ‘’Ultimately the hospital had to be bought back.’’
NSWNMA Shellharbour branch secretary Aimee Johnson said members were collecting signatures for a petition opposing the plans, and had organised a protest rally at Benson Basin from noon on November 6.
‘’We’re concerned a private operator will put profits ahead of patient care, and we feel this will negatively impact on our ability to provide the best service for patients and our community,’’ she said.
Wollongong Greens candidate Cath Blakey said there were concerns a private operator would ‘’cherry-pick’’ services that would be profitable, at the expense of essential services such as mental health.
However Parliamentary secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward said private investment in the hospital would result in more services.
‘’The claim the government is privatising Shellharbour Hospital is a blatant lie,’’ he said. ‘’The public will own the new hospital or new hospital redevelopment. Public patients will be covered. All we’re seeking is to change the model of healthcare delivery.
‘’Under a public private partnership we can bring more services – such as the maternity services which were closed under Labor.’’