Story and photo by Col Hesse
SYDNEY — More than 2000 residents of packed the Marrickville Town Hall on the night of September 18 and heard nurse Sue Larkings condemn the state government's decision to close Marrickville Hospital without any consultation with the staff or the community.
The public meeting was organised by nurses, doctors and local residents.
The decision of the Greiner government to close three Sydney hospitals and cut the services of three others will have the biggest impact on publicly insured patients. If the $3.50 Medicare fee proposed by the federal government goes ahead, there will be even greater demand on public hospitals.
Dr Con Costa, state president of the Doctors Reform Society, explains, "Closure of suburban hospitals such as Marrickville and Auburn will force poor working class people into private health insurance or open them to blackmail and paying thousands of dollars for urgent operations in private hospitals".
Larkings told the crowd that Marrickville Hospital served residents from all over the inner south-western region of Sydney and that over 95% of its patients were publicly insured. "With Royal Prince Alfred already overcrowded and with lengthy waiting lists, where are people to go?"
After the meeting, 200 people joined community buses to state parliament, where more than 20,000 signatures and 2000 letters calling for the hospitals' retention were handed over to local MP Andrew Refshauge and independent MPs John Hatton, Clover Moore and Peter McDonald.
While the rally was taking place, conservative independent Tony Windsor was siding with the Liberals to defeat a six-month moratorium on the downgrading of Sydney Hospital, in a motion put forward by Clover Moore.
Groups all over Sydney are planning further action to protest the closures, including a joint rally in early October.