Unions rally to stop privatisation of public hospitals

Issue 

Several hundred members of the NSW Public Service Association (PSA), the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA), and other unions rallied outside state parliament on September 21 to “Stop the Secret Sell-Off” of five NSW public hospitals and other services by the Mike Baird state government. The rally followed the revelation on September 15 of plans by the Coalition government to call for private tenders to build and run upgraded regional hospitals at Maitland, Wyong, Goulburn and Shellharbour, and carry out hospital improvements at Bowral. The controversial project for a new privatised hospital at Manly, proposed to open in 2018, has been strongly opposed by unions and the local community. Many remember the disastrous attempt to privatise the hospital at Port Macquarie in the 1990s, which ended with it being bought back by the state government at great public cost. UnionsNSW is backing the anti-privatisation campaign, declaring: "The NSW government is undertaking a mass privatisation via stealth, with details of how this will affect the people of NSW shrouded in secrecy." The PSA is circulating an online petition that says: "NSW is in the grip of the largest privatisation program in its history. If we don't act soon, NSW could lose its Land and Property Information Services, Trustee and Guardian Services, TAFEs [Technical and Further Education colleges], Sport and Recreation Centres, management of our National Parks, transport services, gaols, housing, disability care and child protection services to private, unaccountable interests.” The NSWNMA said: “NSW nurses have resolved to take all necessary action to conduct a campaign against the privatisation of NSW public hospitals and services. “The effect the changes might have on nurse to patient ratios, given no large private hospital operator has agreed to nurse to patent ratios anywhere in NSW, gave rise to concern about patient safety from the majority.” NSWNMA general secretary Brett Holmes said members were right to be worried, especially since Premier Mike Baird introduced a regulation in June to terminate the redundancy entitlements of public servants who are transferred to the non-government sector. “This news to suddenly privatise five public hospitals has been thrown on the people of NSW in the same way this government deals with everything: zero consultation with workers, their unions, the community or professionals. All we have to go on is a press release from Minister [Julia] Skinner's office, with no indication of how the model will work, and a meagre two-year employment guarantee,” Holmes said. “History tells us the public-private partnership model is flawed. It isn't favourable to taxpayers because it ends up costing more in the long run. These private operators are relying on public money to fund their profits. “This is a step towards the Americanisation of our health system and a way for the government to distance itself from its responsibility to deliver a public health system by and for the people. The community deserves to have a say in how their public hospitals are run, and we will continue this campaign with their support.” Like the article? Subscribe to Green Left now! You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.