The Guardian February 23, 2000


Mater Hospital says no to privatisation

by T A Curphey

Doctors and Nursing staff at the Mater Hospital, one of the main cancer 
treatment hospitals in the Hunter Valley (NSW) took an unprecedented step 
of going public about the run down of services due to years of insufficient 
funding.

They explained that they were trying to give quality health care which was 
getting more difficult due to the effects of the level of funding which had 
resulted in bed closures.

They launched a campaign, with a leaflet drive highlighting the issues, 
against any attempt to receive funds from the private sector which would 
have amounted to privatisation of the hospital.

They rejected the idea that they should seek private funds as they quite 
rightly saw this as an attempt to privatise the hospital. Instead they 
called on the State Labor Government to provide public funding.

The spokesperson for the nurses, Deb Malcolm, pointed out that under the 
present setup they can no longer provide the level of care needed by 
Newcastle and Hunter Community.

The Hospital is owned by the Sisters of Mercy and operated as a public 
hospital funded by the State Government.

To date the State Labor Government has not come down with any concrete 
proposals although they have recognised that privatisation is not an option 
acceptable to the staff at the Mater and the general public.

They have come to this position because of the mass community support for 
the doctors' and nurses' stand on this issue, with the hospital board now 
calling for a capital works grant.

While it is early days the results of the campaign are encouraging, but it 
has to be kept in mind is that we are dealing with a State Labor Government 
which is privatising and contracting out many services in other areas and 
which has a policy which encompasses economic rationalist ideology.

One of the main positives of the campaign is the forging of trade union and 
the community groups and the general public into a potential force capable 
of preserving public health and gaining the necessary funds to keep the 
Mater Public.

The struggle continues.

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