The NSW Labor opposition has responded to yesterday’s report into the South East Regional Hospital by claiming it reveals secret plans to privatise the $187million facility.
Shadow Minister for Health Walt Secord on Wednesday described the report as “damning” – but said 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.
A review into the operations and management of the SERH made its findings public on Tuesday afternoon.
Mr Secord pointed to page 26 of the report, which he claimed reveals the Berejiklian state government is examining privatisation of health services at Bega hospital
The report said “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.”
Mr Secord said this was another step in the NSW government’s creation of a two-tier health system – where patients who can afford private health insurance get priority over public patients, particularly, the elderly.
It is also the fifth hospital outside Sydney to be earmarked for privatisation by the Berejiklian Government. The other hospitals are 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 government frontbencher Andrew Constance to reveal his knowledge and involvement in privatisation plans at Bega Hospital.
As for the report’s other findings, Mr Secord said the community had been let down as hospital wards lie empty due to a lack of staff and resourcing by the State government.
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 that 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.”