Fears more NSW hospitals could be privatised
HEALTH workers have lashed out at a surprise plan to privatise five hospitals across regional New South Wales, warning of job losses and a reduction in patient care.
They also fear the Baird Government's push for privately-run hospitals will be extended across more of the state.
Companies will be invited to submit tenders to operate currently-public hospitals in Maitland, Wyong, Goulburn, Shellharbour and Bowral as the government searches for savings.
It has already committed more than a billion dollars to expand and redevelop the five hospitals.
NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association general secretary Brett Holmes said privately-run health institutions were at higher risk of mismanagement.
"Private operators rely on shareholders, so are more concerned with profits than standards of care," he said.
"We're extremely concerned about patient care in the long run, as no large private hospital operator has been prepared to agree to nurse to patient ratios anywhere in NSW.
"Without these, patient safety is dependent upon budget, and now profit, to determine staffing levels."
Mr Holmes warned nurses and midwives had only been given a two-year guarantee on their working conditions and wages, with no opportunity to negotiate.
"There was absolutely no warning or consultation with the NSWNMA or our members prior to today's announcement," he said.
Health Minister Jillian Skinner said only hospital operators with proven track records would be considered.
"Partnering with non-government hospital operators will allow us to maintain quality healthcare while delivering the best value for NSW taxpayers," she said.
Labor's shadow health minister Walt Secord said the announcement came as a complete shock.
"On a late Thursday afternoon, the health minister drops a major policy shift without any warning or consultation," he said.