Let’s keep fighting for a better public health system

Our successful campaign to stop the privatisation of five regional hospitals provides us with the inspiration to push on and improve our public health system.

Maitland Hospital is to stay in public hands. Just like Wyong, Goulburn, Shellharbour and Bowral hospitals. How sweet that sounds!

Sixteen months ago it looked like a very big mountain to climb when the then health minister Jillian Skinner announced the privatisation of those regional hospitals.

But all credit to local nurses and midwives, other health staff and their unions and their local communities. They never took it lying down. Unity, commitment, hard work, perseverance, creativity: all were in abundance over the last 16 months as they fought tooth and nail to keep their hospitals public.

Nurses and midwives’ engagement with the public and, in return, their wholehearted support was instrumental in the win. This is a critical lesson for us to absorb as we step up our efforts to extend and improve ratios throughout the public health system.

Polls always show the public rank health among their most important issues. The last sixteen months has shown us they are prepared to go further and participate in our campaigns. Clearly, they cherish our public health system as much as we do.

The community turned out in droves at all our anti-privatisation rallies. At our first rally at Wyong over 3000 packed the local football ground. There was also large public participation at Shellharbour and the other targeted hospitals. Over 35,000 people in Wyong signed our petition. More than 25,000 in Maitland did the same.

The public is our most powerful ally. The community’s willingness to stand together with us obviously had a powerful impact on the NSW government which lead directly to the government backing down. I acknowledge Brad Hazzard, the current Minister, for his preparedness to listen to our members and the community.

Stopping the privatisation of regional hospitals is a significant achievement and victory. But there are now other battles we must turn to if we are to maintain a world-class public health system.

We need to maintain and build on this relationship with the public in our other campaigns, including for better ratios in the public health system and aged care.

Of course the NSWNMA will be doing its utmost to inform the public of the importance of ratios to safe patient care. But there is also an important role for all nurses and midwives to play.

Many, many people in the community know a nurse either as a friend or as family. We cannot underestimate how powerful and effective it is for nurses and midwives to engage the people we know about our issues and how they impact on them as patients.

New office accommodation underway for the Association

In other news, for the past 14 months we have been exploring nearby sites to relocate our head office in order to best serve you and our growing membership into the future.

Our current Waterloo premises now sit in an area which has been re-zoned by City of Sydney for high density residential redevelopment. Therefore, I am delighted to announce 9,000 square metres of new office space to be built within a new mixed-use commercial complex at 342 King Street, Mascot.

Spanning four levels, the space is proposed to include a 500 seat auditorium, a library, member education rooms and meeting rooms. The project relates to a stratum above a hotel and will also comprise one level of basement parking in a multistorey carpark. A development application for the project is expected to be lodged this month with Bayside Council and I will continue to keep you informed as progress is made.