Busload of Maitland residents watch on as new hospital concerns debated in parliament

Concerns about a not-for-profit operating model for the new Maitland Hospital have hit the floor in NSW Parliament. 

Medical staff, union delegates and concerned residents were among a busload of people who trooped down to Sydney’s Macquarie Street to watch Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison take the Maitland Hospital debate to the NSW lower house. 

More than 10,000 signatures protesting the not-for-profit model were lodged on June 2 with the Parliamentary Table Office which triggered the debate.

Ms Aitchison said the aim of the debate was to highlight Maitland residents’ concerns about the hospital not being operated under a public model.  

“The main thing is to show minister for health (Brad Hazzard) that there is still a great deal of community concern about the potential privatisation of the hospital,” Ms Aitchison said on Thursday morning.

“It’s about showing that the government’s not-for-profit or privatisation model is not acceptable to the Maitland community.”

The state government dropped plans of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) for the hospital in June, announcing instead that an arrangement with a not-for-profit organisation would be pursued. 

“There’s been hope by the government that people will say (the not-for-profit agreement) is like the Calvary Mater (in Newcastle), and they’ll lay down and say ‘we love the Mater’,” Ms Aitchison said. 

She said the debate was also an opportunity to highlight a lack of clarity over what size and services the hospital would offer. 

“This is about the fact the Liberals promised something they couldn’t deliver,” she claimed. 

"After six years, the community and staff deserve to know exactly what is on the table.”

She said she hoped politics wasn’t playing a role in the hospital’s progress.

“If they're going to pork barrel on health for people who are sick, injured and dying, then that is probably the lowest form of politics I've seen in my life,” she replied when asked.