Regional hospital privatisation on cards: Labor

NSW Shadow Minister for Health Walt Secord. (Fairfax file photo)
NSW Shadow Minister for Health Walt Secord. (Fairfax file photo)

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The NSW Labor Opposition says the May 16 report into the South East Regional Hospital reveals secret plans to privatise the $187 million facility.

Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord on May 17 described the report as “damning” and the “most alarming aspect was the discovery of the State government’s secret privatisation plans buried in the report”.

He also said the 32-page report failed to address the elephant in the room – the “crisis” in orthopaedic surgery at the hospital.

Mr Secord said page 26 revealed the Gladys Berejiklian government was examining privatisation of health services at the Bega hospital 

“To this end, the (Southern NSW Local Health) District is exploring options such as the expansion of outpatient services at SERH and possibly attracting a private hospital operator to open private beds within SERH,” the report said.

Mr Secord said this was another step in the NSW Government’s creation of a two-tier health system – where patients who could afford private health insurance had priority over public patients, particularly, the elderly.

The hospital is also the fifth outside Sydney earmarked for privatisation in NSW, including Maitland, Shellharbour, Bowral and Wyong.

“Another day, another privatisation,” Mr Secord said.

“Sadly, the Liberals and Nationals only see the health and hospital system as a cost burden, rather than an essential service for NSW families.

“Rather than fixing the problems at the hospital, the response from the state government is to privatise it.”

Mr Secord called on Bega MP and Liberal frontbencher Andrew Constance to reveal his knowledge and involvement in privatisation plans.

Mr Secord said the community had been let down as hospital wards lay empty due to a lack of staff and resourcing.

The report revealed:

  • Local staff at Bega work “exceedingly hard”, but “they were considerably under-resourced and poorly supported” (page 3);
  • The sub-acute and the short-stay units remained unopened due to the lack of appropriate or suitable staff (page 9);
  • Doctors, nurses and allied health leaders “were not collaborating effectively to create high quality services for patients” (page 12);
  • The new hospital’s windows were “cob-web ridden and dirty” as there was no cleaning contract (page 9); and
  • There was an “unacceptable level of bullying and harassment” at the hospital and the local health district; (page 3).

“The report showed the state government had built the building, but failed to staff the hospital and forgot about the patients,” Mr Secord said.

“It is absolutely ludicrous that the state government would fail to resource and staff a hospital – and still open it.”