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Issue #1607      August 21, 2013

Patients before profits

NSW Nurses and Midwives Association general secretary Brett Holmes said public hospital privatisation is again an emerging issue in NSW, with the state Liberals and Nationals resurrecting the failed Greiner-Fahey government policy of asking private companies to run public hospitals.

“They have started with the new Northern Beaches hospital, which will largely replace the Manly and Mona Vale public hospitals. The state government appears to be hoping no one else around the state will notice what they have done, but they have.

“The same applies to the federal Liberals and Nationals, who are also trying to hide their support for this dangerous policy. In fact, they have been so successful at hiding this policy to date that … public affairs commentators such as 2UE’s Paul Murray and 2GB’s Steve Price were not fully aware of it until last week. So what chance did the general public have until the NSWNMA launched its anti-privatisation Patients before Profits campaign last week.”

As part of the Patients before Profits campaign, the NSWNMA is currently running television advertisements on the issue and has also started holding public information meetings and speaking at conferences.

“The fact is, the decision to privatise the new Northern Beaches hospital is just the first step down the road of privatisation of our public hospital and community healthcare system. Words like ‘contestability’ and ‘outsourcing’ don’t fool anyone.”

Mr Holmes said the idea that it is only new hospitals being privatised doesn’t fool anyone either. “We all know how this works. They start off slowly to get the idea established, and once they have a few hospitals privatised they then start running arguments about how it is now silly to keep all the rest in government hands. We’ve seen it all before, in other privatisation experiments.

“And having both a state and federal government in power that support the idea will undoubtedly see the rate of hospital privatisation accelerate. That would be a disaster for patients and hospital staff as private companies and NGOs either cut back services, pay and staffing levels to run a profit or eventually start demanding the right to charge hospital fees.

“Federal Coalition health spokesperson, Peter Dutton, is on the public record supporting the policy and the federal government holds a lot of power over the states in terms of health funding and health policy, through such things as the COAG process and the Australian Healthcare Agreements.

“Our parents and grandparents worked hard, against powerful private and medical vested interests, to build us a good-quality, free public hospital system and an affordable overall health system. Will we leave our children and grandchildren the same or will we leave them a costly privatised mess?” Mr Holmes said.   

Next article – Shameful attack on asylum seekers

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