Secrecy around Northern Beaches Hospital redevelopment sparks industrial dispute

The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA), Health Services Union (HSU) and Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation (ASMOF) will today seek definitive answers to a number of longstanding issues related to the redevelopment of the Northern Beaches Hospital in the Industrial Relations Commission of NSW.

Unions NSW and public health unions have been chasing the information for more than three and a half years, since the NSW Government made the first announcement of the expression of interest (EOI) process to find a private operator to build and operate the hospital. The Ministry of Health has not provided requested and necessary information about staffing, transitions and all aspects of the employment conditions to be made available, which has left unions no option but to seek the Commission’s assistance.

Assistant General Secretary of the NSWNMA, Judith Kiejda, said it was unacceptable that nurses and midwives who will transfer to the new hospital are still fighting to find out what all their rights will be under the new provider.

“This is a prime example of the government failing in its duty to manage our public health system by shutting out workers, unions and the community from the consultation process with the private operator,” Ms Kiejda said.

“It is one thing to have meetings, and there have been plenty of those, but meaningful consultation requires transparent and timely provision of information. It requires decision makers to be present. This has been sorely absent from this process.

“The public keeps being reassured that public patients will not be affected in these public private partnerships (PPPs) but the secrecy surrounding the deal being made between the NSW Government and Healthscope is extremely concerning. How can we trust what they say if we still have no clear details around how this model will work?

“It is almost beyond belief that critical information can still be outstanding some three and a half years after the first announcement of the EOI and over two years after selecting Healthscope as the provider.”

The Commission will be requested to facilitate the provision of information that will address the following concerns from the unions:

• The enforceability of employment conditions outlined in the deed between Healthscope and the NSW Government (and how unions may enforce compliance with these ‘contractual terms’);
• The applicability of the transmission of business provisions contained within the Fair Work Act;
• The provision of a transfer payment;
• The applicability of the Government Sector Employment Amendment (Transfers to Non-Government Sector) Regulation 2016 (NSW); and
• The ability of Healthscope to further transfer employees from the NSW Health Service to a third party contractor engaged by Healthscope.
The NSW Government announced on 2 May 2013 that an EOI process would commence for a private operator to build and operate (and be the employing entity for staff) a new Northern Beaches Hospital located at Frenchs Forest. This new hospital is in lieu of public health services provided at Manly and Mona Vale Hospitals, with Manly Hospital closing entirely, and residual services remaining at Mona Vale Hospital.

No consultation with employees or unions occurred prior to this announcement.

On 29 October 2014, the NSW Government then announced that an agreement had been reached with Healthscope Ltd to build and operate the new Northern Beaches Hospital at Frenchs Forest.

The hospital build is ahead of schedule, which was originally due to open in late 2018. While the opening of the new hospital is being brought forward, timelines regarding staffing and transition, along with workplace rights, have continuously been postponed or delayed.

The Northern Beaches Hospital is the first of five new private public partnerships (PPPs) to be run under the new model that will essentially gift NSW public hospitals to private operators. Other hospitals include Maitland, Wyong, Shellharbour and Bowral.

Download this media release: Secrecy around Northern Beaches Hospital redevelopment sparks industrial dispute

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