Combined Press Release Regarding Land Sale at Royal North Shore Hospital

After a meeting with medical staff at the hospital, Labor candidate for North Shore James Wheeldon today called on NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner to drop her plans to rush ahead and sell Royal North Shore Hospital land. 

“It is time Mrs Skinner started listening to medical staff at Royal North Shore Hospital rather than marching to the tune of those in the Liberal party obsessed with privatisation. It is time to put patients ahead of profits,” Mr Wheeldon said. 

“The Liberals have an ideological obsession with privatisation and selling off public assets. Sadly, once a public asset is sold, it is gone forever,” Mr Wheeldon said.

Mr Wheeldon was speaking after a meeting with representatives of the hospital’s staff medical council.

As part of his ongoing support for patients and medical staff at Royal North Shore Hospital, Mr Wheeldon this week arranged a briefing between representatives of the Medical Staff Council at Royal North Shore Hospital comprising Clinical Associate Professor Anthony Joseph and Dr Bruce Cooper, head of Renal Medicine – and Labor’s Shadow Minister for Health Walt Secord.

Mr Secord said: “As a matter of principle, the land should not be sold when it was already at a premium.

"When the hospital expands in the future due to population growth, it will cost more to expand the hospital facilities," he said.
“The Liberals have taken a very short-sighted and short-term approach to land surrounding Royal North Shore Hospital. In the long run, it will cost the taxpayer more to get more land if the hospital needs to expand.

“As a principle, the land should be used for clinical and patient purposes,” Mr Secord said.

Mr Wheeldon said in late 2014, Health Minister Skinner announced a plan to seek expressions of interest from private parties in relation to the sale or long-term (100 year) lease of roughly a hectare of land on the Royal North Shore Hospital campus. Under the Skinner privatisation plan, a significant portion of the hospital campus that had previously been earmarked for clinical and hospital support services would instead be sold to private interests and redeveloped as office buildings.

“Jillian Skinner’s plan to privatise part of the hospital campus is like a sugar hit. It is short-sighted,” Mr Wheeldon said. “Her plan is fiercely opposed by the Medical Staff Council Executive of Royal North Shore
Hospital and is dismaying to North Shore residents – with more than 15,000 signing a petition rejecting her proposal.

“This land could be developed today to provide a whole range of essential clinical and support services to the hospital, such as dialysis facilities, carer accommodation, Tresilian services, local health administration and child care for staff and patients.

“Minister Skinner’s decision flies in the face of the conclusions of a comprehensive 2012 PricewaterhouseCoopers report on NSW health infrastructure.

PwC found that the best health outcomes for local communities can be delivered through the establishment of ‘health precincts’: concentrated centres of excellence that provide a range of primary and secondary clinical services. Royal North Shore Hospital should be retained in public hands for future development as a healthcare centre of excellence or for the expansion of the main hospital buildings, instead of being flogged off to private developers.

“Everyone knows that the demand for the services of RNSH will only grow over years to come. Decades from now, if Skinner’s privatisation plan goes ahead, the people of North Shore will be shaking their heads in disbelief and wondering what on earth led to the decision to sell off this invaluable piece of hospital real estate.

“The answer is that Jillian Skinner did it to make a quick buck to juice the budget bottom line, in disregard of the needs of future generations,” Mr Wheeldon said.

Some recent privatisation steps by the NSW Liberals include:

  • Awarding of a $1 billion contract to Healthscope to set up a private hospital on Sydney’s northern beaches;
  • Privatising the distribution of medical supplies and equipment within the NSW health and hospital of Healthshare – removing 130 staff at five sites across NSW;
  • Putting out contracts to provide private day surgery like gynaecological, orthopaedic, colonoscopy, endoscopy at the new Byron Central Hospital;
  • Refusing to release details of its private hospital plans for the new Maitland-Lower Hunter Hospital;
  • Privatising the x-ray unit at Kempsey District Hospital; and
  • Privatising the Forensic and Analytical Science Service Food Testing Laboratory at Lidcombe and relocating the sampling to Melbourne. 

Mr Secord said: “As the party that created Medicare, Labor believes in a strong public health system, where hospitals are run for patients, not for profits.”.

“This is another step in the Liberal-National Government’s Americanisation of the NSW health system.

“Over the past four years, the Liberals and Nationals have slashed $3 billion from the health budget. This includes $2.2 billion in program and operating costs from NSW Health and a further $775 million from hospital staff budgets.”

“Furthermore, the Liberals and Nationals are pushing an aggressive agenda of privatising, outsourcing and slashing services within our public hospitals,” Mr Secord said.

Andrew Zbik, Labor candidate for Lane Cove, said: “This action is consistent with the Liberals’ belief that we should follow the American path of privatising healthcare services. In the USA 17% of the GDP is spent on healthcare and one-out-of six Americans have no access to healthcare. Under Medicare in Australia, we spent 9.1% of our GDP on healthcare, which benefits all Australians.”
“With the price of land generally doubling in value every 10-12 years, if we sell this hospital land today, there is no way our healthcare budget will afford us access to this parcel of land in the future,” Mr Zbik added.

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