Maitland Health Services

I speak on behalf of the people of Maitland who are sick of the Baird Government's failed health promises.Five years after being promised a state-of-the-art public hospital they are now left asking, "Where has it all gone?" Since its election in 2011 the Baird Government has done nothing for Maitland's health sector, other than playing a game of smoke and mirrors with the new Lower Hunter hospital.Initially we were promised a large new public hospital which we were told would be the size of the John Hunter Hospital. In fact the Government coined the term "John Hunterish" to describe it. It was to be a facility with 550 beds, but I note that the John Hunter Hospital has 630 beds, It was going to be a teaching hospital and this new hospital was going to be in addition to the existing Maitland Hospital, which has 188 beds. So we were looking at possible total number of 820 beds in our region. And so it should be.

Maitland i s one of the fastest growing cities in New South Wales and is the hub of the Hunter region. With five people making their way to the city every day, this promise of improved health facilities was warmly welcomed. It would have increased our capacity to del ver quality medical care and the range of services offered. Most importantly , it would have meant that patients and medical staff were both winners. Funding promises were expected to be $800 million .However, just before last year's election that amount w as cut to $400 million. The Government's healthcare planning for our region is clear — it i s about giving us less. Instead of a major tertiary public hospital we are left with a reduced public- private partnership hospital with a helipad to fly out the most difficult cases. The end result is that patients lose.

The big question is : W hat percentage of these beds will be made public? The Minister will not even say how many beds will be in this new hospital. I am advised from a reliable source that it could be only 220 beds — barely 40 beds more than what the current hospital provides. People need to keep in mind that if the public beds are no more than 30 per cent of the hospital beds in the new facility we could end up with only 67 public hospital beds in Maitland — a net loss for our community of 120 public beds , which is a disgrace. Since this Government came to office it has cut our health budget and it is now playing dangerous games with our hospital infrastructure. There has been no consultation on the new Lower Hunter hospital since November 2014 when the Government finally announced it was going to close the existing Maitland Hospital , which quite rightly was met with community outrage . I t has now said that it will become a public-private partnership that more than likely will be built by a private for-profit operator. So we again have the game of smoke and mirrors .

We hear that the Mater and Calvary will look after this hospital, but these are legacy models. We know this will be a private for-profit operator, which means that decisions about care and service levels will be dictated by what is profitable with no mandated staffing ratios and a facility required only to meet an "adequate" standard of staffing with no reporting system to keep them accountable.

Patients and medical staff will be worse off because there will be two classes of medical care—one for public patients and one for private patients. There are no medals for guessing who will have the better health outcomes in this model. It should be your Medicare card, not your credit card that determines your health care. Our new hospital will be sold off to the private sector, which is another step towards privatising our health system and worse is to come. Patients will have to pay more under this system. Having private health insurance will encourage and incentivise the value-adds that will be accessible only to private patients. Why is the Government choosing this abysmal model of health care for people in regional New South Wales? The answer is because people in the regions are desperate for health facilities and the Government is relying on their desperation to accept this failed model to meet the needs of our community.

We know that the Government does not have a good record when it comes the privatisation of hospitals. We all know the Port Macquarie example. We know that Mildura is a failed model. The assurances by the Minister that this time they have got the contract right will not wash with our community. Last week in question time the Minister said that Labor was not committed to the new hospital, which is untrue. At the 2015 election Labor matched the $25 million commitment to continue planning. If the Minister wants to play fast and loose with the truth about issues that are on the public record, how can we trust her with other pronouncements? I have tried on at least 12 occasions to have consultations with the Minister and I have been denied at every turn. I urge the Minister to build the hospital now and to make it a public hospital.

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