BY ANNA SWANEPOEL & LESLIE RICHMOND
ADELAIDE — A $80 million proposal to "redevelop" the Queen Elizabeth Hospital has sparked concerns that the government intends to eventually privatise the hospital either in full or in part.
Members of the local community and staff have rallied to the defence of the hospital, more than 150 of them attending a June 24 meeting in the Woodville Town Hall here called by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Alliance.
Liberal state minister for health and human services Dean Brown told the meeting that the total $80 million redevelopment would occur, but assured the meeting that the number of hospital beds would not be reduced from the current 365.
However, he refused to give any guarantees that the hospital, or sections and departments of it, would not be privatised at some time in the future.
Labor opposition leader Mike Rann committed his party to increasing Medicare and to securing all regional and metropolitan hospitals for the next 10 years, promising "no privatisation" under a Labor government.
He did not explicitly rule out partial privatisation, leaving the door open for "non-essential" services, or specific units or research, to be privatised.
Democrats' health spokesperson Sandra Kanck also spoke, undertaking to pressure the government to increase Medicare and rule out privatisation.
Although not invited to speak, the meeting was attended by members of the newly formed Socialist Alliance, whose members have been involved in the campaign. The alliance made up a visible presence with banners, and distributed information calling for mass community action against privatisation.
"Any government that's not prepared to massively increase free access to health care will just continue benefiting the wealthy, increasing the profits of a select few, and will be unable to fulfil its basic responsibility of providing for the people", Socialist Alliance activist Tom Bertuleit told Green Left Weekly after the meeting.
Bertuliet said it was "an encouraging trend" in the city that community groups were increasingly willing to take action, citing local campaigns against school closures, mobile phone towers, the West Beach development and now threats to health services.