The NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association (NSWNMA) welcomed reports the NSW government had capitulated on July 7 on the proposed privatisation of Bowral and District Hospital. This followed the announcement on July 6 that Wyong Hospital, south of Newcastle, will also remain in public hands.
NSWNMA general secretary Brett Holmes said the decision was a testament to 10 long months of campaigning with the community group Public Health First, local health workers and their supporters.
"Another day, another victory for the people,” he said. “This is a sensible outcome for Bowral Hospital and will ensure the redeveloped facility remains in public hands, as it should be.
"Our members had been extremely concerned, not only about their own job security under a public-private partnership arrangement, but also over the lack of guaranteed safe patient care and accountability of taxpayers' money.
"Now the [Gladys] Berejiklian government has walked away from plans to privatise Bowral Hospital, it must bring forward the remaining funds required to deliver a better public health service for the people of Bowral.”
On July 6, Holmes had also welcomed the cancellation of NSW government plans to sell off Wyong Hospital. "Today's decision by the Berejiklian government to walk away from plans to privatise Wyong Hospital is a step in the right direction,” he said.
"After allocating $10 million in last month's budget to the hospital's redevelopment, the state government must now fast track the remaining $190 million to ensure the upgrades are delivered on time.”
While these victories for people power at Wyong and Bowral are important, government plans to privatise hospitals at Maitland and Shellharbour still remain unclear. A debate in state parliament on September 14 over the plan for a new Maitland private hospital has been triggered by a local petition signed by more than 10,000 people.
There is much evidence that public-private partnerships in the health sector simply do not work and often end up costing the government, and taxpayers, much more than if they had been kept in public hands.
Health Services Union NSW secretary Gerard Hayes said the campaign against hospital privatisations would "intensify" following the Wyong decision. "We are encouraged by today's decision in Wyong, but we won't back off," he said.
The union-backed community campaign against privatisation of public hospitals is showing signs of success. In addition to the victories at Wyong and Bowral, the state government was forced to announce in October it was backing off from plans to privatise Goulburn Base Hospital.
These wins are vital not only in pushing back the Coalition government's drive to privatise the state's public hospitals, but also strengthen the growing campaign to defeat this government's neoliberal obsession with selling off every available public sector asset to big business.