The NSW Coalition government's privatisation of the Northern Beaches Hospital on the city's upper North Shore has created a crisis situation with the cancellation of elective surgery and doctors threatening to strike over staff shortages and a lack of vital medical supplies.
The failure to provide adequate facilities and resources since its opening in November has created a shortage in syringes, IV lines, medical swabs, saline bags, needles, wash cloths and alcohol rub and maternity pads.
The Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation NSW has expressed its “grave concerns” about the situation to the director of NSW Health, stating that the “scale of the problem”, coupled with private operator Healthscope's “apparent indifference,” meant the situation was untenable.
Writing in the November 17 Sydney Morning Herald, NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) general secretary Brett Holmes said: “The experiences of nurses, midwives, doctors and other health workers at the Healthscope-run hospital are truly shocking.
“Emergency response teams unable to access patient areas because their swipe cards are not granting access during a critical incident, nurses and midwives running from one ward to another to find basic stores and drugs, inadequate training of staff to use new equipment along with unsafe understaffing…
“The [Gladys] Berejiklian government should be held accountable for the farce it has perpetrated on the people of the northern beaches and the staff who are trying their very best to deliver safe health care in a poorly planned and inappropriate privatisation of public health services.”
The disaster at Northern Beaches Hospital comes after a successful campaign by the NSWNMA and local communities to defeat plans to privatise hospitals at Maitland, Wyong, Shellharbour, Bowral and Goulburn.
The privatisation of Northern Beaches Hospital was the remaining test case for the government's hospital sell-off program.
Healthscope, the major private health company that runs aged care homes and 46 smaller private hospitals around the country, has never managed a large-scale public hospital like Northern Beaches. It is also currently facing a corporate takeover struggle, which may mean it is even keener to slash costs.
Socialist Alliance Legislative Council lead candidate for next year's state election Rachel Evans told Green Left Weekly: “This public-private partnership (PPP) hospital project should never have occurred in the first place.
“The abject failure of Healthscope to fulfil its responsibilities to provide high-quality public health care to the community means the project should be cancelled immediately.
“The Socialist Alliance opposes the privatisation of public assets and services, including through so-called PPPs, and the Northern Beaches Hospital is a prime case in point.
“We will campaign for the Northern Beaches Hospital to be taken back into public hands, and operated as a 100% state facility, under a board elected by staff and the community, who understand what their local hospital really needs to provide quality public health care.”