A 10,000 signatory petition opposing the proposed public-private partnership for Shellharbour Public Hospital was today presented to the Shadow Minister for Health Walt Secord, the Member for Wollongong Paul Scully, the Member for Keira Ryan Park and the Member for Shellharbour Anna Watson by the Health Services Union on behalf of its members and the local community.
Due to the outstanding number of signatures, the petition will be announced by the Speaker on the next sitting day (Tuesday, 30 May 2017) and will discussed by the House in an upcoming sitting week.
The redevelopment of Shellharbour Public Hospital has been a controversial issue since the State Liberal Government made a re-election promise to invest $251 million in the project, and one year later added the caveat that this investment would only be received by the hospital under a public-private partnership.
A public-private partnership at Shellharbour Public Hospital could mean a loss to staff member’s job security as the Liberal Government is only offering an employment guarantee to those staff provided with an ‘equivalent position’ in the new hospital. Furthermore, these positions would only be guaranteed for a period of two years, after which the private operators of the site would be free to make any cuts they see fit whether based on efficiency or profitability. A public-private partnership would also introduce a profit-seeking motive into the distribution of health care, and could lead to two-tier levels of treatment – as profits are prioritised over patients.
The motives behind this petition are anything but new. In November of last year more than 500 protesters assembled to defend their Public Hospital at Shellharbour and fight against its proposed privatisation by the Government. Representatives from the Health Services Union, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, the doctors’ union and the tireless, hard-working staff of Shellharbour Hospital – stood in open defiance of the Government’s privatisation agenda and sent a clear message that Shellharbour Hospital must remain in public hands.
Just a week later, 27 Illawarra-based doctors made the brave decision to write to the Illawarra Mercury, to highlight their concerns for the future of Shellharbour Hospital under the proposed privatisation plan. This just shows that the views of my community members are undeniable and cannot be ignored by this government
We have evidence from Illawarra’s doctors, the health unions and health care workers and now, with this petition, the wider local community that they all collectively reject the Government’s privatisation plans. It’s time for my Liberal colleagues to listen and finally, to act.
This petition couldn’t be more well-timed as a community forum hosted by local health care workers discussing the future of Shellharbour Hospital is to be held on Monday, 5 June at 6:30pm at the Shellharbour Workers Club.
The petition will be set as an order of the day for discussion by the House next week and the scheduled date of its discussion will be subsequently published on NSW Parliament’s website and in the Business Paper.
Comments attributable to Anna Watson MP:
“This petition is a compelling confirmation of what my community has been telling the Government for years. Shellharbour Public Hospital needs to stay just that; in public hands.
“I condemn the privatisation agenda of this government. It’s time for the Health Minister to finally make his motivations clear, come clean about his Government’s plans for Shellharbour Public Hospital and start listening to local residents.
“The Minister for Health has publicly stated that an area’s health infrastructure should be in line with ‘what patients and the community want’. The citizens of Shellharbour have made their desires for their public hospital clear: they want it to stay public, and any plans for privatisation will be fought tooth and nail.
“This petition has added a real momentum to our cause and I can’t wait to hear from the community again at the upcoming forum. I hope the Minister for Health will finally be joining us and listening to residents about what they’d like to see done to their local public hospital.”
25 May 2017