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Hospital PPP collapse leaves board in disarray

Wendy Harris QC
Wendy Harris

The chair of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Wendy Harris QC, has resigned following the Victorian government’s decision to reject plans to include a private wing in the public hospital.

Harris met with Health Minister Jill Hennessy on Friday to tender her resignation, effective immediately.

Earlier this month the Victorian government ordered Peter Mac not to proceed with plans to create a private hospital on the 13th floor of the new cancer centre because, said Premier Daniel Andrews, “it is not compatible with a comprehensive cancer centre that belongs to every single Victorian.”

The ward was to have 42 beds and four operating theatres at the Parkville site.

Harris had been vocal about her opposition to the government’s decision. It has been reported that there had been disquiet among other board members about the way she had publicly handled the issue.

Harris claims $20 million in philanthropic donations are at risk following the decision, with pledges made on the condition that the private ward would form part of the development.

Peter Mac had expected around $700,000 a year in rental revenue and $12 million from the sale of pharmacy, radiation therapy and imaging services over the 25 years of the planned agreement, after which the hospital would have been returned to the state.

Harris maintains that the private section would have helped subsidise public services at the centre and help attract high-quality staff — claims the premier rejects. Andrews responded on 3AW:

“This is going to be one of the top ten comprehensive cancer centres in the world, the only one in the southern hemisphere. Attracting staff will not be a challenge.”

“I’m not privatising a floor, an entire floor, of the Comprehensive Cancer Centre. I won’t do it.”

Suzanne Ewart will act as chair of the board until a new chair is appointed. Ewart has been a director on the board since October 2011.

Health Minister Jill Hennessy said in a statement on Friday:

“This afternoon, I met with Wendy Harris QC where she tendered her resignation as the Chair of the Board of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, effective immediately.

“This was a decision made by Ms Harris.

“I have accepted Ms Harris’ resignation and thanked her for her service.”

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The Mandarin

The Mandarin staff journalists.