By Bruce Marlowe
SYDNEY — Staff, patients and supporters of two of Sydney's oldest hospitals — Sydney and Marrickville — are going into battle to prevent them being either closed (Marrickville) or downgraded to an accident and emergency centre (Sydney).
The cuts, announced last week, have already provoked a rally and vigil outside Parliament House by Sydney Hospital staff and supporters, while the first step in Marrickville's struggle will come on Wednesday, September 18.
The Save the Marrickville Hospital Fighting Committee, led by nurse Sue Larkins, aims to build maximum support for the campaign, which is basing itself on the hospital's doctors and nurses as well as local residents, service clubs and migrant communities.
Already Marrickville's visiting medical officers have move to support the campaign, not only financially, but also by staffing polling booths at the September 14 local government elections here.
According to Marrickville's night supervisor Keith Dwyer: "They're closing it for the sake of a few dollars when they can't even offer us positions".
Dwyer said that many staff had been offered redundancy packages but few were being taken. "We don't want redundancies — we want work", he said. "There are very few of the staff here that are under 50. People feel like they're being put on the breadline."
Dwyer pointed to the growing insecurity in the public health system. "The problem is — you don't know where the next cuts are going to be. They've only given us three weeks' notice so we couldn't organise any resistance."
The Greiner government has been emboldened in part to move against the public hospital system because of a recent agreement reached with three lower house independents — John Hatton, Clover Moore and Dr Peter Macdonald — establishing a fixed four-year parliamentary term.
This now means that Greiner, barring the loss of a no-confidence motion in the lower house, will be in the saddle until 1996 — plenty of time to do a lot more damage to the NSW public sector.
The only other obstacle facing the Liberals is Labor's appeal against results in the May 18 state poll, a decision on which is