US healthcare advocate: Don’t Americanise your healthcare system

Two public meetings will be held today and tomorrow to oppose the NSW Government’s renewed push to privatise public hospitals and other public health services. The meetings at Harbord (northern beaches) on Tuesday night and Wollongong on Wednesday morning will be addressed by leading US advocate for affordable universal healthcare Donna Smith, whose strong message for Australians is: ‘don’t Americanise your healthcare system’.

The panel discussion at the Northern Beaches meeting will be moderated by well-known journalist, Jeff McMullen.

Patients BEFORE Profits

1. Northern Beaches public meeting, Tuesday 13 August 2013, 6.00pm – 7.30pm

Venue: Harbord Room, Harbord Diggers, Evans Street, Harbord


5:55pm: SiCKO and news video clips

6:05pm: Start and introduction by Jeff McMullen.

6:10pm: Donna Smith, Healthcare advocate, Colorado, USA – her experience with privatisation in the United States.

6:25pm: Judith Kiejda, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association assistant secretary – the NSWNMA campaign against hospital and healthcare privatisation, including on the Northern Beaches.

6:35pm: Gerard Hayes, General Secretary of HSU – the privatising of janitorial services in Royal North Shore Hospital.

6:40 – 7:30: Panel discussion – moderator Jeff McMullen

Panel: Angelika Treichler, Community Activist (HEAL); Lyn Hopper, ICU Nurse, Manly Hospital & NSWNMA Council member; Judith Kiejda, NSWNMA assistant secretary; Donna Smith, healthcare advocate, US.

2. Wollongong meeting Wednesday, 14 August 2013, 9.30am – 11.00am

Venue: Portofino Lounge, 26 Atchison Street, Wollongong (South Coast Labour Council conference)


Donna Smith, Healthcare advocate, Colorado, US

Brett Holmes, NSWNMA general secretary

NSWNMA general secretary Mr Holmes said public hospital privatisation is again an emerging issue in NSW, with the state Liberals and Nationals resurrecting the failed Greiner-Fahey government policy of asking private companies to run public hospitals.

“They have started with the new Northern Beaches hospital, which will largely replace the Manly and Mona Vale public hospitals. The state Government appears to be hoping no one else around the state will notice what they have done, but they have.

“The same applies to the federal Liberals and Nationals, who are also trying to hide their support for this dangerous policy. In fact, they have been so successful at hiding this policy to date that respected public affairs commentators such as 2UE’s Paul Murray and 2GB’s Steve Price were not fully aware of it until last week. So what chance did the general public have until the NSWNMA launched its anti-privatisation Patients before Profits campaign last week.

“As part of the Patients before Profits campaign, the NSWNMA is currently running television advertisements on the issue and has also started holding public information meetings, such as the one at Harbord tonight, and speaking at conferences such as the one in Wollongong tomorrow.

“The fact is, the decision to privatise the new Northern Beaches hospital is just the first step down the road of privatisation of our public hospital and community healthcare system. Words like contestability and outsourcing don’t fool anyone. Also, the idea that it is only new hospitals being privatised doesn’t fool anyone either. We all know how this works. They start off slowly to get the idea established, and once they have a few hospitals privatised they then start running arguments about how it is now silly to keep all the rest in government hands. We’ve seen it all before, in other privatisation experiments.

“And having both a state and federal government in power that support the idea will undoubtedly see the rate of hospital privatisation accelerate. That would be a disaster for patients and hospital staff as private companies and NGOs either cut back services, pay and staffing levels to run a profit or eventually start demanding the right to charge hospital fees.

“Federal Coalition health spokesperson, Peter Dutton, is on the public record (see business reports attached below) supporting the policy and the Federal Government holds a lot of power over the states in terms of health funding and health policy, through such things as the COAG process and the Australian Healthcare Agreements.

“Our parents and grandparents worked hard, against powerful private and medical vested interests, to build us a good-quality, free public hospital system and an affordable overall health system. Will we leave our children and grandchildren the same or will we leave them a costly privatised mess?” Mr Holmes said.

About Donna Smith

Donna Smith is executive director of Health Care for All Colorado Foundation, which seeks health care justice and equality in the USA through an “improved and expanded Medicare for all for life model”.

She speaks with first-hand experience of the costs for individuals and families of a privatised, profit-before-patients hospital and health system.

Several years ago, US citizen Donna Smith was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Her husband

Larry was diagnosed with chronic coronary disease.

The couple soon learned that their private health insurance-the standard health care cover for US citizens in their “user pays”, privatised health system-wouldn’t cover treatment.

The couple emailed film-maker Michael Moore. Donna and Larry subsequently starred in

Michael’s documentary SiCKO and, with several other couples whose private health insurance had failed to cover their health care needs, travelled to Cuba to receive treatment.

Donna and Larry’s experience is the experience of everyday people under an Americanised health care system, where insurance premiums often consume a fifth of a household’s total income, yet still won’t cover many health care needs.

Peter Dutton hospital privatisation references

1. Private model for hospitals

Australian Financial Review, Australia by Joanna Heath

05 Apr 2013

General News – page 15 – 471 words – ID 188358380

Coalition to review public system

The federal Coalition will consider pressing for an increase in the number of public hospitals run by private operators if elected, expanding on models developed in the Liberal-led states of Queensland and Western Australia.

The move would be a boon to private health providers in the country, including listed private hospital operator Ramsay Health Care.

Speaking to The Australian Financial Review, opposition heath spokesman Peter Dutton suggested the Coalition did not see public hospitals as immune in its drive to find savings in the health budget

“Given the Labor government has racked up hundreds of billions of dollars of debt, we’re going to have to find more efficient ways of spending our health dollar,” Mr Dutton said.

“If that means it’s more efficient to spend it through change management at public hospitals, then we shouldn’t be afraid of that debate.

“The Coalition, if we’re elected, would continue to work with state governments that have delivered, both under Liberal and Labor leadership, services through private hospitals and not-for-profits.

2. Business Review Weekly – 10 April 2013

(Profile on Paul Ramsay of Ramsay Health Care)

On April 5, opposition heath spokesman Peter Dutton announced that a coalition government would try to get more hospitals run by private operators if it is elected later this year.

“Given the Labor government has racked up hundreds of billions of dollars of debt, we’re going to have to find more efficient ways of spending our health dollar,” Dutton told The Australian Financial Review.

Ramsay would be one of the biggest beneficiaries of such a move.


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