Farce upon farce
A privatised hospital still being built is already delivering top outcomes in the surreal world of the NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Planning, Scot MacDonald.
A classic clip from the television political sitcom “Yes, Minister” turns on the minister’s visit to a brand-new hospital.
Minister Jim Hacker is appalled to discover the hospital is “open” and fully staffed but has no patients.
“It’s a very good thing in some ways. Prolongs its life, cuts down running costs,” explains the administrator, Mrs Rogers.
When Hacker threatens to close the hospital unless it gets some patients Mrs Rogers counters: “But minister, it’s one of the best run hospitals in the country.”
For “Mrs Rogers” substitute Scot MacDonald, Parliamentary Secretary for Planning, the Central Coast and the Hunter in the NSW Liberal government.
MacDonald was on stage at the Wyong Leagues Club on a recent Thursday night.
The occasion was a community forum on his government’s plan to privatise Wyong Hospital as a “public–private partnership” (PPP).
A member of the audience asked him: “Can you give us an example of where this PPP has worked?”
“My understanding is Northern Beaches is working well,” MacDonald replied.
Unlike the fictional hospital in “Yes, Minister”, the Northern Beaches PPP is still being built and will not open until 2018.
Beyond the laughs, anger
Amid laughter from the audience MacDonald added: “It is still being developed. You asked for an example. I’m offering that to you as an example.”
As Wyong nurse Craig Gross commented, “You can’t use something that isn’t operating, that isn’t proven, as a shining example of what a PPP is.”
Craig said the meeting showed that “People are angry that this is a community built, community funded hospital that the government is now looking at privatising. People don’t feel that’s right. We will keep on campaigning. Nobody wants this.”
A member of the NSWNMA’s Central Coast mental health branch, Graeme Miller, said the forum revealed the government did not want to give the community a choice.
“The question was directly asked – why not let the community vote on what is happening with the hospital? And they would not answer it,” he said.
Collette Brennan, a member of the union’s Wyong hospital branch, said community members came to the meeting seeking answers.
“We didn’t really get any good answers. They fumbled around a lot and tried to avoid answering the questions,” Collette said.
She urged people opposed to privatisation to attend protests and write to the government.
Wyong nurse Jacinda Farrell was dubious of government claims that a PPP would make no difference to the way public patients are treated.
“We’ve been told that public patients will be treated as per normal with no hidden costs or extra fees. I guess that is yet to be seen,” she said.■