ASMOF has made a submission to the Upper House Inquiry into Northern Beaches Hospital calling for the NSW Government to abandon the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model in future hospital planning, as flaws in the model have once again been exposed. The known risks of PPPs, including short-sighted cost cutting and secrecy, have played out in the establishment and running of Northern Beaches Hospital to date, unchecked by the NSW Government.
Our submission provides evidence that the Northern Beaches private operator, Healthscope, invested vastly insufficient resources into setting up the hospital, and the advice and expertise of doctors was ignored. Our members were kept in the dark about the terms and conditions of their employment and what services were actually going to be provided at the hospital.
Healthscope’s poor preparation and lack of consultation culminated in the hospital’s chaotic opening months, and the subsequent risks to staff and patients. ASMOF’s concerns were well aired by the media and verified by independent accreditors. Our submission confirms that disaster was only narrowly avoided.
Improvements that have been made at Northern Beaches to date have been a direct result of pressure from ASMOF and other unions, and the relentless hard work of staff employed at the hospital. Our members are doing everything they can to deliver high quality patient care alongside new management, but there are ongoing systemic challenges which require urgent reform.
Inadequate staffing and over reliance on locums is a pressing issue which our junior doctors are bearing the brunt of. The shonky Electronic Medical Records system is still causing day to day frustration for our members across the District and represents a risk patient safety. Service gaps remain at the hospital and area community concern, impacting Royal North Shore and Mona Vale hospitals.
It is clear that Healthscope’s modus operandi is that of a private provider delivering private services, and public healthcare has been an afterthought. Now that Healthscope has been bought out by Brookfield, a private equity business, ASMOF is concerned that there will be a further change to priorities of the organisation from excellence in healthcare to maximising profit.
The current situation was entirely foreseeable.
Public private partnerships have a very poor track record across hospitals in Australia. Port Macquarie was the worst performing hospital in NSW. Instead of ‘transferring the risk’ to the private sector, the public has had to buy back hospitals like Port Macquarie, Robina Hospital in Queensland, LaTrobe Hospital in Victoria and Modbury Hospital in South Australia at a significant cost.
ASMOF NSW President Dr Tony Sara stated
‘All the evidence we have to date clearly shows that public hospitals are at least as efficient as private hospitals, if not more efficient. There is simply no economic rationale for this. When we put the pursuit of profits before sound health policy we end up in a race to the bottom that negatively affects staff and compromise scare.’
ASMOF continues to be committed to making Northern Beaches Hospital a safe, enjoyable and professionally stimulating environment for all our members. However we hope that lessons will be learned from this exercise, and that the NSW Government gets the message that our public hospitals should be in public hands.
The NSW Government must now step up and ensure that there is proper oversight of Northern Beaches Hospital, greater public transparency of its performance and better integration with existing public health services which have been significantly impacted by the new hospital.
Dr Tony Sara, President, ASMOF, 0417498691
Andrew Holland, Executive Director, ASMOF, 0405276030