Wyong shows the way

Our campaign against the privatisation of five regional hospitals kicked off with a massive and inspirational rally at Wyong. Since then, the Baird government has already backed down on the privatisation of Goulburn hospital.

Anger and outrage. Those were the emotions I felt when I addressed a massive crowd of over 2000 at the Wyong Leagues Club Oval at Kanwel on October 16 at a rally against the privatisation of the local hospital. On the day it was obvious to me that my anger and outrage were shared by all those who were there (see pp 8-9).

The community members, nurses and midwives, other health staff and their families who gave up their Sunday to attend were clearly appalled by the Baird government’s decision to privatise our public hospitals – without any consideration of the local communities it will affect or without any consultation with hospital or community health staff.

Already this powerful community reaction has had an impact. As The Lamp goes to print the government has already backed down on the privatisation of Goulburn hospital.

The government says it is because “there was not sufficient interest received to give the NSW Government confidence that better outcomes could be achieved”.

‘Better outcomes for who?’ is a question well worth asking.

If ‘better outcomes for patients’ is the criteria for deciding whether to go forward with the privatisations then the government should do a u-turn on the four other regional hospitals it is trying to give to private corporations and, for that matter, on the Northern Beaches hospital as well.

There is mountain of evidence to show that privatisations do not deliver better outcomes for the people who should count – consumers (see pp 14-17).

In the health sector these people are known as patients and their care, safety and wellbeing should always take priority over the profits of a private corporation.

The risks of privatisation are massive

The NSWNMA has warned for many years now about the creeping Americanisation of our public health system with federal and state government attacks on Medicare, public hospitals and public health funding.

Mike Baird says this is not happening. He says everything in the privatised hospitals will remain the same for public patients and that the government is merely contracting the services to provide care from the private operator. This was the same story that was told about Port Macquarie Base Hospital – an epic policy catastrophe which cost taxpayers dearly.

The Premier and his health minister swear that they’ve learnt their lesson from Port Macquarie and it will be done differently this time. But one thing will remain the same – the profit motive of private operators. Private corporations are answerable, before everything, to their shareholders and as long as it’s about the bottom line for them, then we are at risk of going down the road to an Americanised healthcare system.

There is a new risk with these privatisations that did not exist at the time Port Macquarie was sold and it is a risk the government never mentions.

Under the Trans Pacific Partnership foreign corporations can sue governments for millions of dollars in international tribunals if they can argue that a change in policy will ‘harm’ their investment. So any need by a future Government to recover public health from private corporations could be prohibitively very expensive.

In regions like Wyong, where only 17% of the population has private health insurance and unemployment and good jobs are a real issue, keeping the local hospital public is an absolute necessity.

If people choose private health insurance cover and private hospital care we respect their choice.

We do not respect and and will not accept the privatisation of our public health system and will stand with the ommunities and fight tooth and nail to defend their right to quality, accessible public health care.