The people of Maitland are sick of the Baird Government’s failed health promises. Five years after being promised a state-of-the-art public hospital they are now left asking, “Where has it all gone?”
Maitland is the hub of the Hunter Valley region. One of the fastest growing cities in New South Wales. With five people making their way to the city every day, this promise of improved health facilities was warmly welcomed.
$800 million was promised in funding, and would have increased the range and quality of our area’s medical services. Most importantly, it would have meant that patients and medical staff were both winners.
However, just before last year’s election that amount was cut to $400 million. The Government’s healthcare planning for the Hunter Valley is clear – it is about giving us less.
Instead of a major tertiary public hospital we are getting a reduced public-private partnership hospital with a helipad to fly out the most difficult cases. The end result is that patients lose.
There has been no consultation on the new Lower Hunter Hospital since November 2014 when the Government finally announced it was going to close the existing Maitland Hospital, which quite rightly was met with community outrage. Now, they say it will become a public-private partnership built by a private for-profit operator.
Patients and medical staff will be worse off because there will be two classes of medical care – one for public patients and one for private patients. There are no medals for guessing who will have the better health outcomes in this model. Our new hospital will be sold off to the private sector, which is another step towards privatising our health system with worse to come. Patients will have to pay more under this system.
Why is the Government choosing this abysmal model of health care for people in regional New South Wales? Because people in the regions are desperate for health facilities and the Government is relying on their desperation to accept this failed model to meet the needs of our community.
We know that the Government does not have a good record when it comes the privatisation of hospitals. The assurances by the Minister that this time they have got the contract right will not wash with our community.
I urge the Minister to build the hospital now and to make it a public hospital.