NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has hit out at his Labor counterpart, saying he “has completely lost the plot”.
On Wednesday, NSW opposition health spokesman Walt Secord claimed a report into the South East Regional Hospital included the revelation of a “secret Berejiklian plan” to privatise the facility.
Mere hours later and Minister Hazzard was on the phone to the Bega District News saying the claim was “ludicrous”.
“The opposition spokesman has completely lost the plot if he thinks the hospital located in Bega would ever be privatised,” Mr Hazzard said.
“We’ve just built it.
“I 110 per cent guarantee the only proposal is to have this new public hospital performing at its absolute best.”
Mr Secord’s claim referred to a single line in the 32-page report that says the Southern NSW Local Health District “is exploring options such as the expansion of outpatient services at SERH and possibly attracting a private hospital operator to open private beds within SERH”.
Mr Hazzard said that one line was simply outlining that the independent health board was canvassing ways to improve available services at SERH with the potential to attract and retain specialists at a local level.
“Anyone wanting to stir up trouble can take any word or sentence out of context and make it suit their purposes,” he said.
“This report is to ensure the staff give their very best to the local community on every occasion.
“His claims risk disempowering the local board from implementing innovative ways to attract specialists who can treat patients with private health cover in addition to their work in a government hospital.”
Line in the sand
Bega MP Andrew Constance said this week’s report into the South East Regional Hospital was “a line in the sand” that everyone from the Health Minister down should heed.
“I am very unhappy that it’s come to this for our new hospital – both for the particular outcomes of this review, and now for the politics being played out,” Mr Constance said, also referring to Walt Secord’s media release.
“My very clear expectation is that people need to take accountability for these results and a lot of self-reflection is needed by those in a position to manage the culture at the SERH.
“We have an amazing staff working very hard. It seems a lot of them are under a lot of pressure.
“Nobody – and I am serious about this point – expects any member of staff to feel intimidated in the workplace.
“This report is a line in the sand and I want guaranteed action plans from the Health Minister, to the board and down, to deliver outcomes and a pathway forward.
“I’m very positive and hopeful that this turning point will deliver positive outcomes.”
Mr Constance said his expectation was that the Health Minister would report back to the community in six months’ time to show progress made.
And as for Mr Secord’s claims of hospital privatisation: “Walt would do well to talk with the surgeons who have to travel outside our region to treat people from our region in private facilities in Canberra.
“We need need to find ways to treat people who pay private health cover, which gives the hospital an additioanl revenue stream and keeps surgeons local.
“Less time travelling means more time to see patients. It’s sensible to explore these options.”