Consultation and information sessions involving staff affected by the Northern Beaches Hospital privatisation amount to “the most ineffectual consultation process I’ve ever experienced,” said NSWNMA Vice President Lyn Hopper.
Lyn is an intensive care nurse at Manly Hospital and the union’s branch president. She has been a union activist for more than 20 years.
“There has been more consultation than you can poke a stick at, but it has been totally ineffectual. They are going through the motions and paying lip service to consultation, but there has been almost no information provided,” Lyn said.
Healthscope has arranged consultative committee meetings with unions, made presentations at staff forums, held meetings for various nursing specialties, and a further set of meetings for different departments.
“As a result of all these meetings, the only thing we know definitively is that all floor nurses will be offered a job.
“We don’t know what will happen to clinical nurse educators, clinical nurse consultants or nurse unit managers.
“None of the HSU members and the engineers, plumbers – and allied health people – know if they will have a job.”
She said the union had been unable to clarify arrangements concerning a two-year employment guarantee and the five-year transition period during which public sector employment conditions would be maintained as a minimum standard.
New regulations deny voluntary redundancies to public sector workers
In addition, Baird government changes to regulations in June 2016 mean public sector employees being transitioned to the private sector are no longer eligible for voluntary redundancies.
“The Northern Beaches Hospital privatisation process started in 2013 so the new regulations should not apply to us, but we can’t even get that clarified at the various meetings,” Lyn said.
“When the government announced the privatisation they said public and private patients in the new hospital would be treated exactly the same. In fact, that’s not the case.
“For example, intensive care private patients will get level 6 treatment, but public patients will get level 5.
“Private patients will be entitled to certain procedures that public patients won’t be entitled to.
“If you need cardiothoracic surgery and you’re a public patient you won’t get it at the new hospital, but if you’re a private patient you will get it.
“Private patients will be placed in a private wing and public patients in a public wing.
“During the transition period, staffing for public patients will be by ratios (or nursing hours per patient day), but that won’t apply to private patients.”
In December, the NSW Industrial Commission recommended that the ministry send a senior representative to a union-employer consultative meeting.
Lyn said the ministry official arrived one hour and twenty minutes late and the regular Healthscope senior representative did not even attend.
“It was the biggest slap in the face,” Lyn said. “If the unions hadn’t attended we would have been accused of not being interested in finding solutions.
“It has been an incredibly frustrating process. Despite all the consultation no one is any wiser and we’ve all wasted hours.
“This is meant to be the government’s shining example of how privatisation is to be done. I hate to think what is going to happen to the other four hospitals to be privatised.”
‘They are going through the motions and paying lip service to consultation, but there has been almost no information provided.’ — Lyn Hopper