A petition signed by more than 12,000 Illawarra residents opposing plans to part-privatise Shellharbour Hospital was presented at Parliament House on Thursday.
Illawarra delegates of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Assocation, Health Services Union and the Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Federation handed over the petition to Labor MPs to prompt parliamentary debate.
NSWNMA Shellharbour branch delegate Glenn Hayes said it had been nine months since the NSW Government’s ‘’shock announcement’’ that the ageing hospital would be upgraded under a public-private partnership (PPP). However, he said, there were still scant detail about how this would work.
‘’We don’t know how many expressions of interest the government has received or from whom, and we still have no idea of what services would be on offer under such a partnership,’’ he said.
‘’The model the government is basing this PPP on – Joondalup in Western Australia – is failing miserably as we speak. We’re concerned about whether a private operator will have sufficient services, staff-to-patient ratios or skill mixes.
‘’So we remain opposed to this proposal as we believe public services should be kept in government hands, not in the hands of private operators who need to make a profit.
‘’And – after speaking to thousands of community members who have signed this petition – we know we have a great deal of support within the community.’’
Staff unions have waged an ongoing campaign against the proposal, and a public forum will be held at 6.30pm on June 5 at The Shellharbour Club.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has met with hospital staff to discuss concerns in recent months. Both he and parliamentary secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward claim no final decision has been made on a PPP.
However Shellharbour MP Anna Watson condemned the state government’s ‘’privatisation agenda’’.
‘’The Minister for Health has publicly stated that an area’s health infrastructure should be in line with ‘what patients and the community want’,’’ she said.
“… This petition has added a real momentum to our cause and I can’t wait to hear from the community again at the upcoming forum.’’