Maitland’s new hospital will be built and run entirely by the NSW Government, with Health Minister Brad Hazzard announcing plans for a public-private partnership or involvement from the not-for-profit sector have been scrapped.
In a move the Health Services Union hailed as “a very good outcome for the people of regional NSW”, Mr Hazzard told the Fairfax Media on Thursday that his decision was in response to feedback and concerns expressed about the $450 million facility over several months.
“The net result is I’ve decided the government will not proceed with the not-for-profit partnership, the government will go-it alone,” Mr Hazzard said.
He announced in July that the government was seeking a not-for-profit partner, after backlash over plans to enlist the private sector. At the time, the government had reversed decisions at four of the five NSW hospitals earmarked for partnership models – all except Maitland.
“I’ve listened to all the various concerns and weighed up all the positives and negatives and determined that it was appropriate to proceed with government delivery of the hospital,” Mr Hazzard said.
“All staff will remain as government employees, everyone will receive free public health they’re entitled to – as they would have under either of the models we’d previously considered – but now it will be just the normal model that people are used to.
“In the end, I decided because of a combination of every factor involved it was more appropriate to get on with delivering the hospital as quickly as possible.”
Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison said the news made her “happier than I was when I won the election in 2015”.
Ms Aitchison said the decision meant the new hospital would be a facility that would last the community “until the next century”.
“It’s been such a long journey – it’s such a great feeling that we got the right outcome for the community,” she said.
“It will be a resource that everyone in the community owns, it will work better for the whole Hunter New-England Health system.
“I feel really happy for the patients and the people of Maitland who deserve a public hospital and I feel really pleased for the workers. We won’t lose those government-backed jobs, we’ll be able to maintain ratios for staffing, we’ll have accountability in terms of reporting. It’s a really good outcome.”
Thursday’s decision comes after health workers’ unions, Labor and some sections of the community expressed serious concern that outsourcing healthcare could affect access to patient care, the quality of service, staff conditions and training opportunities for junior doctors.
Health Services Union secretary Gerard Hayes said the announcement was a “great decision” for members of the HSU, the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association and the Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation – the union that represents doctors.
“The Minister has given his word to listen to the people and indeed he has, not only in Maitland but the other four hospitals that were subject to privatisation and this is a very good outcome for the people of regional NSW,” he said.
“We have been fighting this fight for 17 months, we had a commitment to our members and to the community that we would fight this to the end because privatisation and putting profits before the interest of public health doesn’t make sense.
“When governments listen to workers and their representatives and communities and their representatives, good decisions come forward.”
Ground preparation at the Metford site began before Christmas.