The Queensland government backed down in the face of a concerted public campaign to keep the management of a new hospital in public hands.
The Newman Government in Queensland has back flipped on a plan to privatise the management of the new Sunshine Coast University Hospital. The $1.8 billion hospital will be publicly managed by Queensland Health, using Queensland Health clinical staff.
The hospital is due to open in 2016 with 450 beds and a clinical staff of 2500. It has the potential to expand to 738 beds by 2021.
The government backed down following a concerted campaign by the Queensland Nurses Union (QNU) that garnered strong public support. The campaign included an advertising campaign, community rallies and a major petition.
QNU secretary Beth Mohle says the government has made the right decision in line with overwhelming evidence that shows privatised public hospitals are either more expensive to run, lead to reduced services or eventually require the introduction of patient fees, as private operators cream a profit margin off the contract payment.
“The state government should abandon the costly privatisation idea and just get on with keeping Queensland’s great free public hospital system strong,” she said. “Privatisation would have turned back decades of achievement by our parents and grandparents, who built our public hospital system – often in the face of determined opposition from powerful vested interests in the private sector.
“Congratulations to everyone, including local nurses and midwives, involved with the Sunshine Coast campaign against the privatisation of the new hospital. This has not only saved the Sunshine Coast from a sub-standard outcome, it has saved all of Queensland from a dangerous precedent.”
Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg told the Sunshine Coast Herald that the decision for clinical services to remain in-house was based on value-for-money. He said analysis had determined that the private sector offer was unable, at this time, to match the capacity of the public sector.
Privatisation of the Queensland health system is the number one issue for voters in a state by-election, according to a Lonergan Research poll.
Of those polled 22% said “privatisation and outsourcing of the public health system” was the most important issue in their voting decision and another 59% said it was one of several issues important to them.
More than half (59%) said they thought Campbell Newman’s LNP government had made the state’s health system worse. Only 23% thought the LNP government, elected in a landslide victory in 2012, had made the health system better.
The by-election in the bayside seat of Redcliffe, just north of Brisbane, was triggered when former LNP MP Scott Driscoll was forced to leave state parliament and fined $90,000 for being dishonest about his business dealings.
The New South Wales government has refused to rule out that the new Lower Hunter Maitland hospital could be privately run and operated.
Last year the government announced the private sector would construct and run the new Northern Beaches hospital at Frenchs Forest.
The new Hunter facility, to be built at Metford, is planned to become the main hospital for the rapidly growing Maitland city. It will also service Port Stephens and Raymond Terrace.
Acting NSW Health Minister Kevin Humphries told the Newcastle Herald he would not rule out that a private partnership was a possibility.
“It is too early to know what the procurement model for the Lower Hunter hospital will be,” he said. “All options will be considered.”
A Health Infrastructure spokeswoman told the Herald “the next phase of planning will determine the clinical and support services required for the new hospital. All procurement models will be considered during the subsequent phases of planning.”
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