Community battles to restore public services  

Residents angry about hospital privatisation are carrying on the fight to restore public health services on Sydney’s northern beaches.

Replacing Mona Vale and Manly public hospitals with the privately-run Northern Beaches Hospital (NBH) at Frenchs Forest has been a “disaster” for northern beaches residents, says the Save Mona Vale Hospital committee.

Mona Vale Hospital (MVH) was downgraded to an Urgent Care Centre with a focus on geriatric and palliative care in 2018. 

 However, campaigners are fighting to restore some of MVH’s public health services.

They have organised several lively protests, including a rally that drew thousands of concerned residents, and run a vigorous social media and letter boxing publicity campaign.

One of their leaflets says that by closing emergency, surgical, maternity and other acute services at MVH, “politicians are playing with our lives”.

In December, campaigners had a partial win when the government agreed to restore equipment it claimed would upgrade the Urgent Care Centre to emergency department level.

Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, said the hospital would now retain its CT scanner and ultrasound as well as antivenene to treat spider, tick and snake bites.

Save Mona Vale Hospital chairman, Parry Thomas, says the measures fall way short of community demands for a restoration of onsite pathology, intensive care beds and surgical theatres.

The northern beaches area incorporates Sydney’s northern coastal suburbs from the harbour north to Broken Bay.

An ideological decision

Parry says replacing nearby public hospitals with a distant private hospital was never about delivering better health services for the people of the northern beaches. 

“It is all about privatising health on the northern beaches.

 “If you live at Bondi you are almost as far from the Northern Beaches Hospital in Frenchs Forest as people living at Avalon. And it takes almost the same amount of time to get there.

“At the moment, we consider the situation is fundamentally unsafe.”

Parry describes the government’s decision to hand NBH to a private operator as “absolutely ideological”.

“It’s a weird view of the world, that party embraces at the moment, which says private is always going to do things better.

“Of course, every single bit of privatisation has been an economic and services-delivery failure.”

Northern beaches health services may suffer further privatisation if the Coalition government is returned at the 23 March state election.

In 2016, the government sought expressions of interest from private providers to design, build and operate “health related services” on the Mona Vale site without any public consultation.

Options included day surgeries, primary care services, residential aged-care facilities and carer accommodation, the government said. ν