Maitland petition tops 20,000
The people of Maitland have made it clear they want their hospital to stay in public ownership.
Another 10,000 people have put their names to a petition calling on the state government not to privatise Maitland Hospital, in the lower Hunter Valley.
Members of the NSWNMA’s Maitland branch presented the second petition to their state Labor MP Jenny Aitchison.
She will take it to parliament where it is expected to be debated for a second time.
Gathering a total of 20,000 signatures indicates the extent of opposition to privatisation: Maitland had a population of only 68,000 at the 2011 census. The hospital also takes patients from hospitals in towns such as Dungog, Cessnock, Kurri Kurri, Singleton, Muswellbrook and Taree.
The government says a new Maitland hospital will be built and run by a not-for-profit organisation rather than via a public–private partnership model, as it first proposed.
Community opposition has already forced the government to abandon plans to privatise four out of five hospitals it earmarked last year.
Of the five, Maitland is the only one that could be handed over to the not-for-profit sector rather than stay as a government-run facility.
President of the NSWNMA’s Maitland branch, Jane Burton, said the not-for-profit model was “privatisation by another name. Being a not-for-profit means they are still working to produce a financial surplus.”
“Our community deserves a public hospital. They deserve to know they are going to be looked after now and into the future and standards of care will be maintained.
“Only 15.5 per cent of our population has private health cover.
Jane said there was very little understanding of what a not- for-profit hospital would mean for the community.
“As a teaching hospital, we have a lot of new grads, nursing students and student doctors coming through, which may not continue under a not-for-profit model.
“There has been no consultation or guarantee as to how many public beds will be provided within the new hospital. The existing hospital is way too small to meet current demand.
“The government will not say what maternity and midwifery services will be available.”
Jane said the government had failed to commit to the new hospital maintaining its current wards such as the new intensive care unit, coronary care unit, mental health ward and gazetted beds.
“There is nothing to say they won’t outsource services such as pathology, x-ray, cleaning and catering, which are commonly farmed out to private providers in the not-for-profit system.”
She said Maitland nurses and midwives would only be guaranteed state award conditions for two years after privatisation.
She said branch members would continue their “conversation with the community” including door-knocking, leafleting markets and shopping centres and public meetings.