IN FIRING LINE: Lismore Base Hospital.
IN FIRING LINE: Lismore Base Hospital. Cathy Adams

Staff wrestle for jobs at local hospitals

HAVING seen the impact of privatisation first hand, Eugene Okis is urging all staff that could be affected by the privatisation of non-clinical services at six Northern Rivers hospitals "to fight hard for their jobs."

The Northern NSW Local Health District NNSWLHD has engaged MBM Consulting to conduct an efficiency review of services including linen, wardsmen, cleaning, security, waste management, pest control and materials management.

The hospitals in the firing line for services to be privatised are Grafton, Maclean, Ballina, Lismore, Murwillumbah and Tweed.

Mr Okis, who worked for 17 years at Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital before resigning in 2013, said before privatisation staffing was adequate and everything ran smoothly.

"I started off in the kitchen, then went into stores, then the mail room and ended up in stores for the operating theatres," he said.

"Prior to the private company coming in the morale was good, staffing levels were good, there were opportunities for promotion and ongoing training and the staff were generally happy."

But after the 2010 privatisation of non-clinical services, Mr Okis estimated 120 jobs were replaced by private contractors and the situation was "complete chaos".

"The staff were like pawns in the middle getting tossed back and forth between the health department and the private contractor."

"There were payroll issues where people didn't get paid on time, a lack of training and no opportunities for promotion, the casual contractors were favoured by their privately employed bosses over health employees and a lack of consultation with staff that resulted in a huge reduction of staff morale."

He urged affected staff to fight the privatisation.

"Fight as hard as you can not to allow it to happen," Mr Otis said.

"It is going to affect the community, the services and the staff."

NNSWLHD Chief of Staff Wayne Jones said a report on the review was expected in the coming months.

"The NNSW LHD, in the routine course of service management, is seeking opportunities to review and benchmark a number of hospital non-clinical support services to identify available service improvements and/or efficiencies," he said.

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