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.