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Luxury Ideal - A Two Fingered Gesture

Luxury Ideal - A Two Fingered Gesture

by Selwyn Manning -

Tax payer money will give the National Women’s Hospital luxury maternity wing a clear advantage over its private health counterparts - thanks to the tax payer’s buildings, equipment, and “goodwill”.

That’s the silent issue begging to be exposed in this whole Public-Hospital-Provides-Luxury-For-Paying-Patients fiasco.

It is purely academic whether Health Minister Wyatt Creech discovers National Women’s Hospital management acted lawfully or not in setting up the Cornwall Unit [the user pays luxury maternity unit].

Clearly, at National Women’s Hospital the state is providing the buildings for this estranged private health service. The state will provide the staff. The state will provide the equipment. The state will provide the necessary backup facilities, specialist medical and surgical teams and “goodwill” for this so called Cornwall Unit to succeed.

Private maternity providers in the Auckland region would be well advised to lambast National Women’s Hospital for its pursuit of the dollars of women who are prepared to pay by the night when giving birth.

For this is not a level playing field.

Private health providers of course pay for their own facilities. They invest millions in the setting up of first-class birthing centres. Yes they may receive contracts from the public Health Funding Authority to provide births. Like private provider Birthcare Auckland, which the HFA has provided funding for 1000 post-natal patients per year since August 1997.

But the private providers are founded on profit business models. Founded on the traditions of Companies Office business structure.

While down the road at National Women’s, managers lean teetering on borrowed scalpels with one foot in the public trough and the other tapping a tune to Pink Floyd’s “Money, its a gas, grab that cash with both hands and make a stash...”

Forgive me the satire, but this is what the market health model has become.

While officials prepare a dossier for Health Minister Wyatt Creech over whether it is lawful for National Women’s Hospital to set up a private maternity wing, the real revelation is that a public hospital, supposedly under the directives of the Minister of Health, can race off on a right-flank charge and set up precedence of public interest proportions without even telling the man at the top.

I say public interest proportions, because as Labour’s health spokesperson, Annette King points out: “The Health Funding Authority has expressed concern at the two-tier system of maternity care put in place at National Women's Hospital. But the HFA's funding practices will force other hospitals to consider a similar course of action.”

Public hospitals spinning first and second class accommodation? Surely, it just isn’t the kiwi way.

If Mr Creech allows the Cornwall Unit to remain, the precedence has been set. To the Government’s embarrassment this will be a policy change not conceived within its fold, but from the spawn of its market modelled health system. And one insolent baby it is.

Even common courtesy would insist that Mr Creech be saved the embarrassment of saying he didn’t know anything about it. And as for National Women’s - talk about maverick. Talk about arrogant. Talk about a two fingered gesture in the face of this country’s elected representatives charged with governing the pillars of our society.

Here in Auckland, the tax payer is the loser again. Surely the tax payer has paid for the land, the buildings, the management, the clinicians, the beds, the fixtures, the computers, the flash towels and the hotel-like-toilets.

If not, the precedence looks even more dangerous - a public hospital setting up a business structure independent, on its own accord, without its own shareholders even knowing. That looks too Frankenstein-like in a corporate kind of way even for these days of exhausted ministerial accountability.

National Women’s Hospital has been an island against the tide of public horror on a number of occasions. This exercise, while not clinical, displays an arrogance that National Women’s knows best and raises an elitist snob mentality toward the common people it is contracted to serve.

I can see it now: National Women’s security saying to a mother of low-income means “no, no dear... Yours is the public toilet in that wing far down there...” amongst the madding crowd.

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