April 21, 2014

Horse 1659 - NSW Health: Brought To You By Serco

Conveniently buried under news stories of a gushing public looking out for royalty's every move and whilst everyone was looking the other way at the revelations from ICAC, the Sydney Morning Herald published this story:

Premier Mike Baird wants to push ahead with the privatisation of public hospitals, saying Sydney's dilapidated health facilities are in need of upgrading.
The privatisation model used in Western Australia, where non-clinical staff were privately employed and public hospitals were privately built and managed, could provide a ''fantastic opportunity'' to give NSW patients the best services, he said.
Mr Baird said he was concerned by the ageing of NSW's health facilities. ''The quality of doctors and nurses is world-class and they need world-class facilities,'' he said.

He said he would ''leave no stone unturned'' in investigating opportunities with the private sector to transform the state, and to learn from international experience.
''Don't be afraid of the private sector,'' the treasurer-turned-Premier said. ''Don't be afraid of looking globally. We want the best possible services for NSW we can get. My passion is to look at every possible opportunity for the infrastructure the community is crying out for.''
- Sydney Morning Herald, 21st Apr 2014

It's only taken a weekend but already the new Premier Mike Baird has showed his stripes. Just three days into the job he announced an intent in both his capacity as Premier and Treasurer to privatise New South Wales' hospitals.
Oh yes, let's just use the privatisation model used in Western Australia as our example of best practice shall we?

Serco Australia has won a $4.3 billion 20-year contract to provide facilities management and support services at Western Australia’s new flagship hospital when it opens mid-2014.
The State Government announced the deal with the London-listed company, which also runs the detention centres on Christmas Island, in a move that has several unions, including United Voice and the Health Services Union, up in arms at the privatisation of hospital services.
- Nursing Careeers Allied Health, 18th Nov 2013

This wouldn't be the same Serco which runs the Manus Island Detention Centre, would it? The same facility which saw rioting and the murder of 23-year-old Iranian  Reza Berati would it? Presumably the same pursuit of profits would be extended to the realm of health care? Just how long would it be before neglect in the name of "efficiency" saw people die?
This wouldn't be the same Serco which was threatened to have its staff removed from the project because of cost overruns and delays in delivery would it?

FORMER WA Health boss Kim Snowball has hit back at claims by the WA Treasury his office mismanaged the construction of the Fiona Stanley Hospital.
It was reported today Treasurer Troy Buswell had joined former under treasurer Tim Marney in his criticism of the Health Department’s handling of the multi-billion dollar flagship hospital, claiming “significant failures” had been made by the Health Department.
Mr Snowball said officers from the Department of Finance were “directly involved” in developing Serco’s contract to manage the hospital — hitting back at comments made by Mr Marney during a parliamentary hearing last week that Treasury had just two weeks to scrutinise the contract.
However, he said there had been three “mistakes” in the commissioning with the hospital.
The first mistake was planning to open the hospital in one stage, he said.
“It became obvious that this carried considerable clinical risk for patients and after seeking clinical and senior executive advice a decision was made to stage the opening of the hospital,” he said.
“This had nothing to do with delays, but rather to ensure patient safety.”
- Perth Now, 18th Feb 2014

Immediately I question what pies that Premier Mike Baird has his fingers in. Barry O'Farrell was brought down by ICAC only last week and immediately the new premier is seeking to privatise the state's infrastructure. Who put him up to this and what sort of kickback is he expecting to get out of this? It's worth pointing out at this point that former premier Nick Greiner who was also brought down by ICAC in 1992, eventually found himself some really nice cushy jobs on the boards of British American Tobacco, Bradken, Citigroup Australia and eventually worked his way onto the board of Infrastructure NSW.
If Liberal Party treasurer Arthur Sinodinos didn't know how much Australian Water Holdings had donated to the Liberal Party even though he was a director of the company, then did ex-Sydney Water boss Paul Broad who is currently the chief executive officer of Infrastructure NSW know about it?

Is it naive to suggest that Premier Mike Baird has already been white-anted before he even began? And at any rate, if NSW's health facilities are ageing, why shouldn't it be the good and fair people of NSW who pay for it? What on earth do we pay tax for? And if the good and fair people of NSW are not the people to pay for the upkeep of ageing of NSW's health facilities and there is a need for world-class facilities, then does that mean to suggest that private enterprise will?
The experience of the United States when it comes to the provision of private health care is a system which is between two and a half times more expensive; where 15% of the population has no coverage at all and where you do have health care coverage, then mortality rates are significantly higher.

Already three days into the Premiership of Mike Baird, he signaled his intent to sell the good and fair people of NSW short. If Serco are the ones who manage health care in NSW, then would you be better off being thrown off a balcony before being beaten to death? It might be cheaper in the long run.

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