Greens say PPP for Lower Hunter hospital 'short sighted'

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The Greens have joined calls for the new Lower Hunter hospital to be a fully public facility.

The state government is considering expressions of interest from private firms that want to build and run the proposed hospital at Metford as part of a public-private partnership.

In a statement released on Wednesday morning, Greens health spokeswoman Dawn Walker said Lower Hunter residents would be next to feel the impact of “the government’s addiction to privatisation”.

She labelled private involvement in the new hospital “short sighted”.

“Privately-run hospitals expect a return on investment and their profit motive invariably puts pressure on cutting costs, such as through shortening stays of very ill or long term patients,” Ms Walker said.

“They also don’t train doctors and nurses like our public hospitals do because it’s not profitable.

“Publicly run hospitals can deliver medical services more efficiently, cheaply and will continue to do complex and costly medical procedures, even when they don’t return a profit. 

“I’m also concerned about the impact of nurse to patient ratios, which can be as low as one nurse to four or five patients under a private model, which results in a drop in patient care.”

The hospital’s funding model was one of the key issues raised at a public forum at East Maitland Bowling Club on Monday night.

At the forum, Hunter New England Local Health District chief executive Michael Di Rienzo confirmed construction of the hospital would start by the end of 2018 and the facility would be two-to-three times the size of the existing Maitland Hospital.

He told the forum that it would be mandatory for the private operator to work within Hunter New England Health’s framework.

“Public patients will be treated exactly the same way as they are now at the current Maitland Hospital,” Mr Di Rienzo said.

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