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West Coast hospitals saga sounds another warning

West Coast hospitals saga sounds another warning

The long saga surrounding the re-building of Greymouth Hospital, now at its fourteenth proposal, together with budget slashing for Westport facilities, sounds another warning to the New Zealand people as to where government intends the public health system to go, according to Democrats for Social Credit health spokesman, David Tranter.

Tony Ryall's instruction to DHBs that they consider PPP (public/private partnership) funding flies in the face of endless cost overruns and mismanagement in hospitals and other services overseas when the private sector has muscled in on what should be government-funded facilities controlled by the appropriate government departments.

As a current example of PPP chaos the Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth (Western Australia) where private contractor Serco is heavily involved was supposed to open last month but the government have had to delay the opening to March next year. Meanwhile Serco is being paid $118 million to provide, in their own words, 150 "operational staff", 80 "pre-operational project team" staff and "others" to provide a "welcoming service" - without a single patient until March next year. The latest development has seen the government stripping Serco of the majority of patient administration and records management and handing this to the health department in order, "to ensure that the quality of patient care is maximised" - according to the Western Australia health minister Kim Hames.

The obvious question is surely - why was this management ever handed to a private, for-profit, business in the first place? Mr. Tranter said. But the nonsense doesn't end there. According to the Western Australia PerthNow News (10 April) regarding the Fiona Stanley Hospital; "The committee also found the six-month delay of the hospital as well as ICT issues had cost taxpayers about $330 million". This includes an extra $52.7 million to Serco.

PPP partnerships in the UK and elsewhere have produced similar outcomes to what is happening in Australia. In New Zealand CTU economist Bill Rosenberg recently stated regarding the Waitemata DHB's new surgical centre; " ..... private contractors could be paid over $7,000 per day for the easiest surgery done in public hospitals is a wasteful use of our limited health budget. This is a form of the Public-Private Partnerships which in the U.K. and elsewhere have led to massive waste of public funds and which the U.K. government now deeply regrets.”

New Zealanders need to ask the hard questions of their M.P.s regarding the government's PPP funding agenda. With Tony Ryall on record saying the West Coast District Health Board would seek "private sector partners" to build a Westport health facility and local National M.P. Chris Auchinvole talking up Ngai Tahu's publicly declared interest in building Greymouth Hospital, the government must come clean and tell the West Coast public whether their precious health funds are going to be siphoned off on a long-term basis by private sector involvement in Greymouth and/or Westport, Mr. Tranter said.

Once again the Democrats for Social Credit point to the obvious alternative to prevent the slide into privatisation-by-stealth of the public health system which is to fund these projects at minimal (loan management only) cost through the Reserve Bank, Mr. Tranter said.


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