Sunshine Coast nurses want answers on Noosa Private Hospital

Queensland Nurses Union (QNU) workplace delegates on the Sunshine Coast have met this week and want answers on how the Noosa Private Hospital’s contract with the State Government to treat public patients works.

QNU assistant secretary, Des Elder, said the Sunshine Coast delegates are very concerned about the way the deal between the Noosa Private Hospital, which is owned by Ramsay Health Care, and the State Government works and they want some important questions answered.

“Firstly, how many public admissions has Noosa Private accepted over the last 12 months? The Sunshine Coast delegates advise me that complex public cases are actually referred on to Nambour Hospital. I am told that public emergency presentations are also referred on to Nambour Hospital.

“Is it also true that any public inpatients not able to be discharged after 30 days are transferred to nearby government hospitals? And that any inpatients who have multi-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are also transferred to the public system?

“What is the procedure for admitting a person who chooses to be a public patient and do they suffer any triaging or waiting time discrimination? In other words, can Noosa Private Hospital management confirm that all patients are admitted and treated based on clinical need and private patients are not prioritised for treatment or access?

“The QNU calls on the State Government to answer these important questions and to publicly release the details of its Noosa Hospital contract with Ramsay Health Care.

“As well, the QNU calls on the State Opposition and other non-government MPs to stand up for the public ownership of public hospitals and demand the State Government answer the questions raised by the QNU’s Sunshine Coast delegates and release the Noosa contract with Ramsay Health Care.

“The Newman Government is constantly trying to reassure Queenslanders it will be business as usual at privatised public hospitals, but all the evidence, including the issues raised this week by local nurses and midwives, indicates that will not be the case.

“This lack of transparency with regards to this Noosa deal, which was put in place the last time the Liberals and Nationals were in power in the mid 1990s, again highlights a major problem with privatising public hospitals – the decreased public accountability for how funds are used and services are provided. Local nurses and midwives have serious concerns about just what value Queenslanders are getting from the Noosa public-patients’ deal. They believe the private operator, Ramsay, is only too willing to focus on private patients and the easier public patients, while leaving the difficult cases to the government facilities.

“This is a common theme around privatised public hospitals and it is a key reason so many hospital privatisations, including Robina on the Gold Coast and Port Macquarie in NSW, have failed in Australia.

“It is also clear from the recent KPMG assessment of the current hospital privatisation push that it is a high risk strategy. The limitations KPMG has put on its own reports are breathtaking and understandable. They should send a shudder through the Queensland community, which is justifiably proud of its free public hospital system and its contribution to providing affordable health care for Queenslanders. (See the “Limitations” section at the front of the KPMG report on the SCUH.)

“KPMG also admits it could not find a comparable privatisation, anywhere in the world, of the proposed scope and complexity of the Sunshine Coast University Hospital. So the people of the Sunshine Coast are again the guinea pigs for a model that puts profits before patient care. This is all the more reason the State Government must come clean on the true nature of its arrangement with Noosa Private Hospital for providing public services.

“The QNU believes there is a very real threat the Sunshine Coast community will end up with a diminished range of services if more public services are given to a private operator, when it was promised and deserves a cutting edge tertiary-level, referral public hospital. Patient care must be put ahead of profits, including on the Sunshine Coast,” Mr Elder said.

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