“Words are cheap, Gareth. We want a commitment.’’
That’s the message from the state’s Health Services Union (HSU) boss to parliamentary secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward after the MP pledged his support for Shellharbour Hospital to remain in public hands.
HSU NSW secretary Gerard Hayes called on Mr Ward to bring Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet to Shellharbour this week for a ‘’public commitment to a full funded, fully public hospital’’.
On Monday Mr Ward told the Mercury that he had lost patience with the process, and was no longer in ‘’a position to entertain the concept of a public-private partnership’’ for the ageing hospital.
He will meet with NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard today, along with other Illawarra MPs, where he said he would recommend that the hospital stay a fully public facility.
He said it was over 12 months since then health minister Jillian Skinner called for expressions of interest from private providers to redevelop and run the hospital.
However Mr Ward’s move drew skepticism from Mr Hayes.
“We have seen stage-managed antics such as Gareth Ward’s before. Until we see a full commitment to a fully public hospital, we believe nothing,’’ he said.
“Words mean very little, especially from a politician who is part of a government that has privatised more community assets than any other in our state’s history.’’
Mr Hayes said he suspected Mr Ward was trying to “soften the community up for a compromise model’’ where Shellharbour would be run by a not-for-profit provider.
“Such a deal will still take health resources away from this region and leave the local community shortchanged,’’ he said.
“My message is simple. Drop the political stunts, Gareth, and deliver a commitment to a fully funded, fully public hospital for Shellharbour.
‘’Anything short of that is a betrayal.’’
South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris said Mr Ward’s decision to not back a PPP spoke volumes.
‘’Even Gareth, the government’s representative, cannot stitch together a good argument to privatise – if Gareth can‘t do it, who can?’’ he said.
‘’If he can’t see one reason to do it then this lends itself to the view that the motives for the government’s move to privatise are based on vested interests rather than the interests of the people of the region.’’