Emergency services presented a united front at a lunchtime protest on Thursday against plans to part-privatise Shellharbour Hospital.
Firefighters joined doctors, nurses and general hospital staff in opposition to state government plans to get private operators to redevelop and run the hospital.
The Baird government also remains committed to going ahead with public-private partnerships at Maitland, Wyong and Bowral hospitals.
Fire Brigade Employees Union state president – and Dapto firefighter – Darin Sullivan said many of his colleagues were concerned about the ‘’sell off’’ of public assets.
“Some of our local firefighters were able to join hospital staff (on Thursday) while many local paramedics and police have also offered their support,’’ he said.
“For emergency services facing our own budget cuts and attacks from this government, it’s certainly concerning to have that next phase of care we’re involved with being undermined.
“It’s a strong part of the fabric of our society that people can be treated in the public health system if they require it.
“The selling off of such an important public asset would further undermine universal healthcare for NSW.’’
South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris said emergency services staff worked tirelessly to keep the community safe, and healthy.
“Once we sell off the hospital the key driver becomes profit and that’s money that comes out of our wallets and into the hands of multinational corporations,’’ he said.
“The worst thing about this is that those profits inevitably will stand in the way of the best health outcomes for our community and that should concern everyone.’’
NSW Nurses and Midwives Association Shellharbour mental health branch president Glenn Hayes said the union wanted answers.
“Since the announcement on September 15, there’s been no staff or community consultation,’’ he said.
“We’ve asked numerous questions about what it will mean for service delivery and standards and we’ve had no response.’’
However Parliamentary secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward called it a ‘’fear and smear’’ campaign.
“It’s much like the Medicare scare campaign in the lead-up to the last election,’’ he said.
“While Medicare is here to stay, there’s also no agenda to privatise the hospital – it will remain 100 per cent owned by the public.
“What we’re proposing is to work in partnership with the private sector to enable us to provide new services for patients and new opportunities for staff.’’
Health unions expect hundreds at a protest rally against the plan at Benson Basin from noon on Sunday.