A win for the ages

Years of effort and campaigning by many people who care deeply about our public health system has paid dividends with the state government backing off on its plans to privatise Wyong, Bowral and Goulburn hospitals.

 The peerless Nelson Mandela once said: “It always seems impossible till it’s done”.

This is certainly a sentiment we should hold onto when, as we often do, we go toe to toe with powerful vested interests in business, media and government who wish to sweep away public goods and services that have taken generations to build.

For a good forty years now our world-class public service has been white-anted and eroded by privatisations and outsourcing. Last year we needed four pages of The Lamp to list the sell offs here in NSW that had happened or were in play.

This mania to inject the profit motive into all public services seemed to reach its apogee with the Baird government decision to gift five regional hospitals to the private sector.

It was an action we saw coming and we warned the community in a very high profile campaign before the last state election what the government had in mind.

Of course we took a lot of heat and vitriol for our position. That has never blunted our determination to do the right thing for our patients.

Over these many decades when governments have privatised whatever they could they have never been stopped. We have now drawn a line in the sand.

We need to be clear. This is a very significant win. It could never have been achieved without the full-blooded commitment of nurses and midwives, the support of their local communities and the solidarity among health unions that created the intense pressure which forced the government to back down.

We remain resolute in our belief that a strong, properly resourced public health system is the foundation stone for the well being of Australians.

Maitland and Shellharbour/Port Kembla need our help

As great as the victory at Wyong and Bowral is, we now need to maintain our focus to reverse the privatisations at Shellharbour/Port Kembla and Maitland.

There is still much work to be done and the nurses and midwives at these hospitals and the communities they serve need and deserve our support.

The Berejiklian government has announced it will seek a not-for-profit organisation to build and run the new Maitland Hospital.

Do not be fooled. This is more of the same.

Contrary to what the government claims, this is not the same relationship NSW Health has with Newcastle’s Calvary Mater or Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital.

It will have the same contractual arrangement as in other public-private partnership proposals, such as the new Northern Beaches Hospital.

At Maitland, not-for-profit organisations have been offered the same contract as for-profit corporations, and the model will still be surplus driven.

The same dangers and threats will exist for nurses and midwives at Maitland as at the Northern Beaches hospital. Staff will only be guaranteed employment with existing conditions for two years. This means, after this time, staff will be forced over to a new enterprise agreement that will be unlikely to include ratios.

This union will never back down from defending the public health system. The Government’s intention to seek a “not for profit” tender for Maitland Hospital proves to us that every battle has its low points but we should never be deterred. If we stand up for what’s right, community and union power will prevail and the Wyong, Bowral and Goulburn communities have retained their public hospitals as a result of it.