Concerns have been raised about the impact the privatisation of the new Maitland hospital will have on its feeder hospitals like Cessnock, Kurri Kurri and Dungog.
The State Government announced in September that the new Maitland hospital at Metford would likely be funded through a public-private partnership.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association held a rally outside Cessnock Hospital on Thursday, joined by local nurses and residents and Cessnock MP Clayton Barr.
Mr Barr said he supported the rally because he “won’t stand for or tolerate” privatisation of hospitals.
He said it was important for the community to recognise that not just Maitland will be impacted by the privatisation of the new hospital – that it could “by default” impose a privatisation model onto the feeder hospitals.
Association organiser Michael Kirby said Cessnock, Kurri Kurri and Dungog hospitals all rely on Maitland Hospital for a range of services.
Mr Kirby said he was concerned that public patients deemed “too complicated” would be turned away from the new Maitland hospital and increase the workload of the smaller public hospitals nearby.
“Maitland Hospital, and all hospitals, need to remain in public hands,” he said.
“We do not want to end up with a situation where you’ve got a for-profit, shareholder company cherry-picking what patients they like and don’t like.
“It should be your Medicare card, not your credit card, that determines the level of care that you get in Australia, and we don’t want to compromise that.
“We should not enter into any negotiations with the government about what a public-private partnership should look like, there should be a firm line in the sand.
“We should keep hospitals public now and into the future.”
Mr Kirby said he feared the new public-private arrangement would see nurse-to-patient ratios become worse.
“The current ratios discriminate against regional areas,” he said.
“We should be looking at getting extra funding to elevate the nurse-to-patient ratios at these hospitals.
“We want to improve our health system, we don’t want to see if going backwards.”
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