A large number of the local community could be locked out of their own ‘public’ Byron Central Hospital if its part privatisation continues, health workers have claimed.
The Health Services Union (HSU) says the state government was ‘pursuing privatisation by stealth’ by seeking to contract out management of operating theatres to a private company.
And the Northern NSW Local Health District, has admitted it had been exploring ‘avenues to provide day surgery at Byron Central Hospital, including through a tender process’.
But its chief executive, Wayne Jones, told Echonetdaily a recent tender process inviting expressions of interest by private providers to provide day surgery had failed to provide any ‘compliant submissions’.
Mr Jones said the NNSWLHD ‘has been exploring avenues to provide day surgery at Byron Central Hospital, including through a tender process’.
He said surgical services in the district were ‘receiving a significant boost with new theatres planned for Lismore Base Hospital, The Tweed Hospital and Ballina District Hospital’.
But the union has questioned why the apparent partial privatisation was going ahead at the new Byron hospital ‘yet the government had abandoned all five of its regional hospital privatisations’.
HSU NSW secretary Gerard Hayes said the government had recently dropped plans for public-private partnerships at Bowral, Goulburn, Wyong, Shellharbour and Maitland hospitals.
‘The people of Byron and Mullumbimby fought hard to get the new hospital built, and to keep their local health service in public hands,’ Mr Hayes said.
‘At a time of record low wages growth, and with the cost of health insurance having risen by 5.6 per cent a year since 2010, private cover is increasingly out of reach for many people on the North Coast.
‘So if it theatres were privatised, a significant proportion of the local community could be effectively locked out of their own “public” hospital.’
Mr Hayes said the Byron Central Hospital Sub Branch of the HSU had passed a resolution opposing any private running of theatres at the hospital.
‘Hospital staff are members of the local community, and they want the community to have access to high quality public health services,’ he said.
‘That’s why we’re today calling on the Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard, to come up to Byron Bay and to speak directly with hospital workers to clear up questions about the future of the operating theatres at Byron Central.’
The NNSWLHD’s Mr Jones said ‘clinical service planning for day surgery services takes into account the flow of patients across the Local Health District and the availability of surgical services at multiple facilities’.
‘Patients can be assured that NNSWLHD is committed to expanding these services, to ensure we continue to meet clinical timeframes and the needs of our communities,’ he said.