For years, residents of the Northern Beaches in Sydney have been promised a new hospital. The Northern Beaches Hospital Plan now on the table is being driven by the needs of conservative politicians and private business interests.
Rather than building a new public institution to help the struggling Mona Vale and Manly hospitals, the state Liberal government has struck a lucrative deal with a private consortium which includes Healthscope, Leighton Holdings and Theiss.
Lynn Hooper, a registered nurse in the area, told the NSW Nurses Federation: “For the past 20 years, nursing and medical staff of Manly and Mona Vale Hospitals have been begging for a bigger, newer hospital on the Northern Beaches … Imagine our disappointment when we found out it was going to be a privately designed, built and operated hospital.”
Healthscope has been given a 20-year contract to run the hospital. It will be built using public money. Already, the cost of the contract has come under scrutiny after details were published in May. It was revealed that the private hospital will cost the state government $2.14 billion, more than twice the $1 billion figure publicised by health minister Jillian Skinner before the March election.
A private hospital will not serve the interests of working class people in the Northern Beaches. “A private corporation will always put profits first”, the NSW Nurses Federation has pointed out in a statement. “How will a privatised public hospital on the Northern Beaches work for its residents (irrespective of their insurance status)? How will the NSW Government hold a private corporation accountable for taking care of public patients and providing public beds?”
It has also become clear that the new hospital is seen as a replacement for the existing local hospitals. Both the Mona Vale and Manly hospitals overlook beaches and are ripe pickings for property developers.
While the NSW government has attempted to down play such a scenario it has refused to share details of its plans for the other hospitals, citing commercial confidences. The only winners from this will be the corporations involved.