Health privatisation is damaging the nursing profession

A new report launched today, Taking Back Control: A Community Response to Privatisation, has found the widespread practice of privatising public hospitals and health services across Australia is putting nurses’ professional obligations at risk, has had a detrimental impact on the quality of our healthcare system and has blown out taxpayer-related costs

This report was put together by the People’s Inquiry into Privatisation, who have spent the last year visiting cities and towns in every state and territory to speak with affected community members.

Key issues identified as a result of health privatisation outlined in the report include:

  • Reductions in care hours for patients
  • A lack of government accountability
  • Reductions in nurse staffing numbers and appropriate skill mix
  • Profit motives outweighing the delivery of quality care
  • Erosion of pay and working conditions for staff
  • Cost blow-outs
  • A decline in quality of services accessible to the public

Submissions from nurses to the inquiry also raised concerns regarding risks to the nursing profession and their professional obligations, such as duty of care, if health privatisations continued to occur.

The report makes 12 recommendations, including greater regulatory mechanisms and policy frameworks around the delivery of public services, an independent body to oversee privatised assets to ensure accountability and a moratorium on privatisation, until these conditions are put in place.

“In a concerted effort, we’ve managed to prevent three of six hospital privatisations in NSW over the past three years, but the secrecy that’s surrounded the new public-private partnership for Northern Beaches Hospital is alarming,” NSWNMA General Secretary, Brett Holmes said.

“To be now less than a year from its planned opening and staff at nearby Manly and Mona Vale Hospitals still don’t know what their conditions are, or even if they’ll have a job to go to, is outrageous policy-making on the run by the NSW Government.”

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Northern Territory Branch echoed concerns in its submission to the inquiry about the decline of quality care in Justice Health following privatisation.

“The nurse-to-patient ratio under private management meant there was at least half the number of nurses employed than what was urgently needed. The fact that the prison guards had to give out the medication is a whole gamut of problems. There were times where nurses were expected to deliver care with scripts written on pieces of paper. No right protocols, no policies. They were putting their registration at risk numerous times,” said ANMF NT Branch Secretary, Yvonne Falckh.

“Under government control, at least there are protocols, policies, procedures. When you’re with a private employer, the risk of losing your job is a major thing, so they put up with what’s been happening because they’re too frightened that they’re going to lose their positions.”

The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) is a partner of the People’s Inquiry.

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