Labor MP Jenny Aitchison has questioned whether the state government will backflip on a public-private partnership for Maitland’s new hospital.
The Maitland MP raised the issue in state parliament last week after Premier Mike Baird’s back-down from a ban on greyhound racing.
“Given the government's admission that its decision about greyhound racing was wrong, will the Minister now admit that the government was wrong to privatise the operation of Goulburn, Maitland, Shellharbour, Bowral and Wyong hospitals?” Ms Aitchison asked Health Minister Jillian Skinner.
But according to a Hansard transcription of the exchange, Ms Skinner returned fire and accused Labor of ignoring the need for a new hospital for the Lower Hunter.
“She must be extremely pleased that this government is getting on with the job of building a new hospital at Maitland,” Ms Skinner said.
“Of course, that has been never promised by the Labor Party – neither when it was in government or at any other time.”
Ms Aitchison immediately refuted the claim.
“The Labor Party did make a commitment to build the hospital during the election campaign,” she said.
The government announced in September that it would call for expressions of interest from the private sector to help build and run the hospital, proposed for a former brickworks site at Metford.
Ms Skinner and Mr Baird had remained tight-lipped about possible involvement of the public sector before the announcement, despite frequent questions that pre-dated the 2015 state election.
“The truth of the matter is that it could easily be an operator such as the Mater, which operates very effectively in Newcastle,” Ms Skinner said in response to Ms Aitchison’s question in parliament.
“I can give people an assurance that whatever happens, if there is an expression of interest from an operator interested in helping us to build and run the hospital at Maitland, public patient care will be free of charge, just as it is in every other hospital treating public patients.”