Community onside in anti-privatisation battle
Shellharbour decision a win for Port Kembla hospital too.
The decision not to privatise Shellharbour hospital was vital for the future of neighbouring Port Kembla hospital, said NSWNMA delegate Nilda Miranda.
Port Kembla hospital specialises in rehabilitation, aged care and palliative care and some services including rehab wards, palliative wards and palliative community care may be relocated to Shellharbour or Wollongong hospitals.
“We are not opposed to moving as long as the services remain public. When that was confirmed people were dancing in the corridors,” Nilda said.
Nurses and midwives celebrated the news with a number of events, including a family picnic day.
“Families played a huge part in supporting the nurses who were active in the campaign to stop privatisation. The families also made a big contribution to get their own networks to understand the issues at stake.
“Social media was pivotal to our success. We got great support via social media and it influenced so many people’s thinking and actions.”
We had a compelling argument
She said community actions included a very successful “Politics in the Pub” debate at Kiama, an evening candlelight vigil outside Shellharbour hospital and a car-chalking event to get the anti-privatisation message onto the streets.
“We brought along chalking pens and stencils and asked people to come down and let us write on their car windows.
“Everywhere we went we saw cars with messages such as “Save Shellharbour Hospital” and “#keepitpublic”. It helped keep the issue fresh in people’s minds and filled in the gaps between media coverage.
“The campaign succeeded in stopping privatisation because we mobilised the entire community and the issue touched the hearts of the people of the Illawarra.
“We were able to articulate the issues affecting us, such as economic disadvantage, high levels of cultural diversity, our geographic and demographic challenges.
“We put a coherent and compelling argument and the policy makers had no choice but to listen.
“We made sense and represented our community with vigour and enthusiasm.”
Nilda said the whole union gave invaluable support to Shellharbour/Port Kembla nurses and midwives.
“We could not have done this without the leadership and resources the NSWNMA put at our disposal.
“We will remain vigilant and have been taught many important lessons.
“Most important of all is that by working together with a clear goal and supporting one another we can achieve what we once thought impossible.
“We changed the position of the government and we will do it again if we need to.”
Victory after 13-month campaign
General Secretary of the NSWNMA, Brett Holmes, said more than 13 months of tireless campaigning by local health workers, community members and public health advocates had paid off with the decision to keep Shellharbour Hospital in public hands.
“This is without a doubt a victory for the people of Shellharbour and Port Kembla and I am thrilled the right decision has been made,” Brett said.
He called on Health Minister Brad Hazzard to scrap the government’s plan to sell off Maitland Hospital – the last of five regional hospitals listed for privatisation by former Health Minister Jillian Skinner in September 2016.
‘’We stand by the evidence that indicates public–private partnerships in the health sector do not work.’’