Labor and health workers' unions protest proposed not-for-profit plan at Maitland Hospital

Rally: Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison, union representatives, hospital staff and community members at the action on Monday. Photo: Lachlan Leeming.
Rally: Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison, union representatives, hospital staff and community members at the action on Monday. Photo: Lachlan Leeming.

Controversial plans for a Public Private Partnership for the new Maitland Hospital may have been scrapped, but unions are now preparing for a fight over jobs and workers’ conditions.

A rally out the front of the hospital on Monday saw Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison, union members and staff call for the new hospital to be publicly-operated rather than seeking a not-for-profit organisation to build and run the new facility.  

Chief among the concerns of rally-goers were the fate of staff, ranging from doctors to cleaners, if the new project was undertaken by a not-for-profit group.  

Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison, who was the first to address the rally, said it was time that the state government’s “rivers of gold” made it to Maitland. 

“It doesn’t make sense we don’t get a public hospital. The government says the rivers of gold are flowing – why aren’t they coming up here?

“We are not a charity, we deserve the same level of support as every other community in the state.” 

Ms Aitchison said Health Minister Brad Hazzard was a “reasonable guy” and was confident he would be listening to community concerns.  

“We’ve been fighting this for six years. We won’t be stopping now,” she said. 

Australian Salaried Medical Officers' Federation doctors’ union representative Damien Lee said the quality of training that young doctors would receive could be impacted if the new facility was operated by a not-for-profit group.  

“If this goes ahead, there’ll be no guarantees over training and supervision of our junior doctors,” Mr Lee said. 

He added that any cuts to training for doctors could flow on to poor service for patients.  

“Patient care is a concern, if doctors aren’t getting the best training then the impacts are going to be felt elsewhere,” he said.  

Mr Lee’s views were echoed by Cindy Paull of the Health Services Union, which includes hospital workers such as cleaners, kitchen staff and physiotherapists. 

“For those who have been working within the Maitland health service for 30 years, this transition can be quite daunting,” she said.

Ms Paull said pay rates and leave entitlements were major concerns of staff facing the prospect of not-for-profit management.  

“They (staff) are fearful. They don’t know what to expect.”

Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison addresses the rally on Monday.

Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison addresses the rally on Monday.