Public to take back Mildura Base Hospital after decades of privatisation

By Shannon Jenkins

August 28, 2019

Premier Daniel Andrews and Health Minister Jenny Mikakos via @JennyMikakos

The Andrews government will return the Victoria’s last privately-operated, state-owned hospital to public management, to the relief of locals.

Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos made the announcement more than two decades after the Mildura Base Hospital was privatised by Jeff Kennett’s Liberal National government.

The current government consulted with the community before deciding to wrap up the long-term contract with the hospital’s private provider — Ramsay Health — which ends in September next year. 

“After two decades of privatised healthcare, we’re returning Mildura Base Hospital back to public hands, where it belongs,” Andrews said.

The community has lobbied for the hospital to be publicly run for a long time, according to the state government, with one campaign seeing more than 90% of local community consultation participants identify their hopes for an end to privatisation.

The Victorian branch of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has applauded the decision.

ANMF Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said the “bold” decision has put the interests of locals first.

“This move will re-invigorate the hospital and its ability to recruit and retain nurses and midwives to the far north west corner of the state,” she said.

“The hospital’s nurses and midwives are excited about the news and we already know one midwife, who resigned a while back, has been inspired to update her CV in preparation of a return to the facility’s birthing services.

“The move also opens up opportunities to introduce innovative health programs so there is less need for residents to travel to Melbourne for health care.”

Fitzpatrick said Member for Mildura Ali Cupper’s maiden speech in Victorian Parliament earlier this year, which focused on healthcare, was clearly heard.

“She expressed her angst that local health dollars for the Mildura community were saved instead for shareholders and she noted no other MP was asking for a public-private hospital in their electorate,” she said.

“Premier Daniel Andrews and Health Minister Jenny Mikakos listened to her powerful arguments, listened to the residents and acted in the best interests of one of Victoria’s most isolated communities.”

Wentworth Shire Councillor Jane MacAllister told the New Daily that while Ramsay Health created a “terrible culture to work under”, the hospital now has the opportunity to become a “world best-standard facility”.

While many are relieved, one doctor said some staff are concerned the private provider might make the transition difficult.

“People are also questioning what this means for them and their positions,” they told the New Daily.

The former chairman of the hospital’s community advisory board, Vernon Knight, said the transition will be a “debacle”.

“My grief is that the transition costs to the new hospital are going to be a burden that we can’t sustain and there has been no clarification about where that money is going to come from,” he told Sunraysia Daily.

While visiting the rural city, Andrews also announced $1 million towards a new regional service plan to identify the future healthcare needs of Mildura’s people. The community will have a chance to contribute to the plan via a Community Consultative Committee, to be chaired by Cupper. 

A local board will be appointed and staff including doctors, nurses, allied health and support staff will transfer across to the new public service. 

According to Cupper, the Department of Health and Human Services will work with Ramsay Health and unions to support existing hospital staff.

More information can be found on the Department’s website.

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