Monday 5th December 2016
Big turnouts at our rallies against the privatisation of local public hospitals and a 30 per cent swing against the National Party in the Orange bye-election send a very clear message from regional NSW to Mike Baird that he ignores at his peril.
Over the last two months NSW nurses and midwives have stood up strongly for our public health system.
At rallies throughout the state thousands of nurses have been joined by thousands of community members who share our serious concerns and anger about the privatisation of regional public hospitals.
2000 people at Wyong, a thousand more at Shellharbour and other very well attended rallies at Maitland, Bowral and Goulburn have put the Baird government on notice they have a fight on their hands if they want to give away our cherished public hospitals to their mates in the private sector.
Already we have garnered broad political support for our campaign. NSW Labor has strongly committed to preserving our public health system (see p.9). We have also received solid backing from the Greens and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.
All the health unions – the NSWNMA, the HSU and ASMOF – who represent the great bulk of public health sector workers – are united behind the campaign. For Unions NSW, repelling the attack on public hospitals is a high priority.
No doubt the Baird government was hoping they could give away five regional hospitals to the corporate sector under the radar of the public. But our efforts over the last two months have been very effective in alerting the public to this outrageous policy.
A failure to listen to the wishes of the people and a failure to even consult people had a significant influence on the bye-election in Orange where there was a 30 per cent swing against the National Party. The Baird Government needs to listen to the people and undertake true consultation on major changes such as privatisation.
Privatising public health is electoral poison but people need to know what is happening. The government relies on the issue disappearing from people’s minds soon after the announcement is made.
We cannot assume the public knows that our public hospitals are being privatised or understands what the consequences are. Our challenge, our job, is to keep it front and centre in people’s minds. Our experience is that when they do know and they understand the consequences they are very angry with what the government is doing.
We need to keep pressure on Premier Baird until he backs down on this appalling policy. We have an obligation to stand up for our members and help them to stand up for their patients’ rights to access public health care. We will continue to do that up to the next State election in 2019 and beyond.
In this issue of The Lamp we announce a new choice for our members – an exclusive health fund for nurses and midwives.Some might find this contradictory when we are running a vigorous campaign against privatisation. But it is completely consistent with long-held NSWNMA positions.
We have always recognised that the community is entitled to personal choice. We have always recognised the contribution of private health care and of our members who work in private health care delivery. We have always recognised there is a role for private health insurance for those who can afford it. The health fund for nurses and midwives has been established by Teachers Health Fund and will be not-for-profit. In some ways it is a similar initiative to industry super which returns all benefits back to members and is also a legacy of the union movement.
Teachers Health was originally set up by the NSW Teachers’ Federation. It is a highly respected service to teachers and educators. I hope that Nurses and Midwives Health will be welcomed and valued by our members.
Not all nurses and midwives are able to afford private health insurance but many of you make the decision to buy health insurance. I trust that you will have a good look at what this fund will offer in comparison to your current choice. You are guaranteed that no shareholder is making money out of your choice.