July 9 - 15, 2017: Issue 320

Community Rises to Save Mona vale Hospital again: Overwhelming Objection to perceived Privitisation of a Public Hospital


Published on 6 July 2017 By Pittwater Pathways
The NSW Government wants to demolish Mona Vale hospital’s main building and allow privatised medical facilities in it’s place. Tell them their dreaming.
The above video by regular contributor John Illingsworth has taken six months hard slog to complete - it's comprehensive, insightful - it's brilliant and will give you the best insight on this site from the first land settler to the current date.

In May 2013 we ran a Profile on the Save Mona Vale Hospital Committee which outlined the work this community group had done since 1999/2000 to ensure the community living in Pittwater and her offshore areas has access, in relative proximity, to the level of emergency care and health care it needs.

The opening of the brand spanking new Mona Vale Hospital Community Health Centre in May 2016 has been greeted with loud applause by many in our community.

On December 2nd 2016 Member for Pittwater, The Hon. Rob Stokes announced the NSW Government is seeking registrations of interest from experienced health care providers to co-locate additional health services at Mona Vale Hospital. 

“This initiative supports our community’s desire to ensure Mona Vale Hospital continues to play an integral role in the provision of high-quality health care on the northern beaches into the future,” Rob Stokes said in the Media Release which accompanied the announcement.

“Over the past 5 years we’ve seen around $50 million invested in capital improvements at Mona Vale Hospital and we must ensure this momentum continues.

“We’re now exploring opportunities for Mona Vale Hospital to make the most of its fantastic beachside location and provide a broader range of health services than ever before.

The Northern Beaches Health Service Redevelopment webpage regarding the ROI listed that services could include:
• day surgery
• primary care services, including general practice
• family resource centre
• additional clinical support services, for example medical imaging, pathology and pharmacy
• medical suites
• mental health
• additional oral health
• additional rehabilitation and sub-acute services
• residential care facilities
• carer accommodation

Further information on the registration of interest was available to download

The webpage advised that 'Responses to the ROI will be assessed to ensure they align with the identified priorities for local health care. Interested providers will also have to demonstrate they have the experience and capacity to deliver the services proposed.

Providers shortlisted through this process will be invited to submit detailed proposals in 2017.'

Former NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said the ongoing transformation of Mona Vale Hospital will provide a further boost for health care on the northern beaches and the Northern Sydney Local Health District will continue to retain responsibility for overseeing the delivery of services.

“Following major investments in new infrastructure at Mona Vale Hospital, this project continues to advance plans for additional health services and will help create an integrated and modern hospital campus,” Mrs Skinner added.

Part of the announcement stated Acute services would be transferred to the new Northern Beaches Hospital when it opens in 2018. The document, available to download, states, 'This will enable the hospital to progressively transform into a purpose built dynamic health care environment centred around a village green. '

Regular correspondent Mark Horton attended a Community Information session in July 2014, and when refused a copy, took a picture with his phone:

'MVH Hospt. Village Green post 2018' - title and photo courtesy Mark Horton

2018 is slated as the potential start of construction of new facilities.

On March 23, 2017, Rob Stokes MP for Pittwater announced that more than 20 health care providers had responded to a Registration of Interest (ROI) process for additional health services to be co-located at Mona Vale Hospital.

These additional services would be provided alongside a range of existing and new health services including 24/7 Urgent Care, medical imaging, pathology, pharmacy, inpatient rehabilitation and assessment, inpatient geriatric evaluation and management, inpatient palliative care and a diversity of community health services.

“The interest received from experienced health operators has exceeded our expectations,” Rob Stokes said.

“I’m particularly excited by the diversity of health services being proposed – especially from local operators.

“We’re now looking at the potential for a broader range of sub-acute and complementary health services to be provided at Mona Vale Hospital than ever before. This includes everything from General Practice through to medical specialists.

The Northern Beaches Health Service Redevelopment Request for Proposals document (2013) states that 66 sub-acute beds will be available at Mona Vale Hospital and that the new hospital will treat both public and private patients. 2013 was also when local GP Suzanne Daly's petition of 11800+ signatures to save Mona Vale Hospital was apparently ignored by Parliament.

Part of the March 2017 announcement included: All land will remain in public ownership and Northern Sydney Local Health District will continue to manage the Mona Vale Hospital campus.

One Reader commented to Pittwater Online News: "Best news I've read in ages."

Reaction in the rest of through the rest of the community was not so positive. In March this news service, which is also by the community, was asked to publish and leave up this Petition:

Petition: Keep Maternity Services In Mona Vale! 

As many of you may know both Manly and Mona Vale hospitals are due to be closed towards the end of 2018 and replaced by the large hospital currently under construction in Frenchs Forest. This means losing both the maternity units from our local hospitals as all services are transferred to the new site, creating a gap in maternity services and further limiting local women’s choices regarding where they choose to give birth.

This petition seeks to provide a platform for our voices to finally be heard. It has long been proven by countless research studies that midwifery-led continuity of care models for low-risk women SHOULD be the gold standard of maternity care. Why should women accept any less? As a community, we want to see a midwifery-led freestanding birth centre that provides continuity of midwifery care and CHOICE for families on the Northern Beaches.

We are concerned that the commute to the new hospital in Frenchs Forest will put women at risk due to travel time during peak traffic and the flooding that occurs during heavy rain on the main access route to the new hospital. Studies have already proven that the closure of maternity units across Australia has been significantly associated with increased 'birth before arrival' (BBA) rates. The distribution of studies undertaken has not been limited to rural and remote areas, but includes large urban populations. Given the high risk of adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes associated with BBA, it is time to stand up against the closure of units.

A birth centre that is based at Mona Vale Hospital, centrally located on the beaches would allow women with low risk pregnancies the option of Midwifery Continuity of Care which research also shows to be cost-saving. In 2012 a multimillion-dollar investment was made to upgrade and modernise the Mona Vale maternity unit. The investment has been made in the right location already. We therefore propose that the Northern Beaches Health Service Redevelopment (Mona Vale Hospital site) be the ideal location for such a service.

This is such an important issue! It is a fundamental human right to have CHOICE when it comes to childbirth.

Both local and regional support is welcome, you may not use this service or live on the beaches but if we rally together for the future we can see this dream become a reality for our daughters, granddaughters and the wider community as a whole.

We need to be heard, but to be heard we need your voices! We need as many voices as possible so that NSW Government take notice. Please,sign and share this petition today and be the change.

What became apparent in April 2017 was the planned demolition of the tower many people associate with Mona Vale Hospital. Also sinking in was that clearly calls for providers was private enterprise, which must see this as viable to submit an EOI but that that, in itself, commits 'securing Mona Vale Hospital’s role into the future' - that phrase so often reused through the process, into the realm of privatisation. It is this perception of a public hospital being shifted into a private one, coupled with the ending of Emergency Services at the site, and no plans to upgrade Wakehurst Parkway or commence the Mona Vale Road upgrades that is causing concern with resident after resident stating: "Someone will end up dead as a result."

This groundswell of concern is creating a new Save Mona Vale Hospital movement - some examples:
Many people have a story about what Mona Vale hospital means to them. For example, within 50 meters of where I live are two families where:
1) a husband and father suffered a massive heart attack at midnight and a smart wife rushed him to mvlifesaver from where he staged a full recovery without heart muscle damage and
2) a young man, still technically a boy, who is an extraordinary athlete, came down almost instantaneously with meningococcal disease. Within minutes his life was going rapidly down the toilet but a smart mother got him to mvlifesaver and after several excruciating hours his decline was arrested and he was saved, again without serious long term damage.
Neither of these people would be undamaged today were it not for mvlifesaver. Nor, probably, would they be alive.

Many people have a story, perhaps along similar lines, it might be that mvlifesaver was where your children were born, or it could be any of a dozen connections. One thing almost certain is that every long term Pittwater resident is likely to have a story. 

The first petition was followed by this one in recent weeks:

Mona Vale Hospital 

Retain as a Feeder to Frenchs Forest Hospital.
Why this is important

There is little to no information out there regarding the bulldozing of Mona Vale Hospital as soon as FFH is up and running. It is unnecessary. The people of Pittwater deserve to keep their Hospital in particular:

A refurbishment of existing building;
Retaining MVH as a level 3;
Continuing with an A and E; 
Maternity ‐ upgrading birthing suites;
Basic inpatient surgical and medical care of geriatric paediatric and palliative care. (Meaning an ICU specialist anaesthetist and surgical support & back up). 

This level of hospital has served our community well as feeder for RNSH so why not as a feeder for F.F. We're already aware that the proposed "Private/Public" Hospital model is not working at other Hospitals across the state plus with poor road infrastructure in existence getting from Palm Beach ‐ as south to Mona Vale will be extraordinarily tough in bad weather. As recently as July 2016 Mona Vale was cut off due to flooding at the grave yard (base of Mona Vale Road), Garden Street & Pittwater Road Narrabeen and Wakehurst Parkway flooded ‐ any emergencies would not have been able to make it to FF.

More and more young families are moving into the area hence the need to retain such a basic health facility to ensure the lives of all residents within the Pittwater/Wakehurst community is not lost on trying to reach a Hospital.

Hospitals require millions upon millions of dollars to build, maintain and upgrade. Many are supportive of the current NSW State Government in their determination to get great health care in modern facilities available to communities by inviting proposals from private contractors to become partners in the construction of these. The recent Budget 2017 announcement of a $341 million upgrade for Concord Hospital, even if the works won't be completed until 2023, caused cheers all round. There has been no mention of privatisation of parts of that hospital, yet, although critics have pointed out the upgrades are funded through the revenues from the part-privatisation of electricity companies Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy and the government's moves to privatisations of ports and the Land and Property Information service.

Our government is also in discussion with the Commonwealth and Victoria about selling its share of Snowy Hydro. Later this year offer 51 per cent of the WestConnex motorway to the private sector.

The idea of privatisation of public hospitals attracted criticism at the coal face, in those who look after those who need these services. A January 2017 NSW Nurses and Midwives Association article pointed out their experience with the contractors building the privatised NBH had not been a good one with a lack of consultation, and answers to questions not being provided...for years - from Northern Beaches privatisation still shrouded in secrecy:

'Northern Beaches Hospital staff are still in the dark about their future,  three and a half years after the first announcement of the privatisation and over two years after Healthscope was named as the provider.

Health unions including the NSWNMA have gone to the state Industrial Relations Commission to try to get answers to vital questions about Sydney’s new, privatised Northern  Beaches Hospital.

The unions notified the commission of a dispute after trying for more than three years to get answers about employee transitions, staffing arrangements and work conditions.'

The article is critical of the 'new model that will essentially hand over public hospitals to private operators'. Other hospitals then slated for a similar model were Maitland, Wyong, Shellharbour and Bowral.

This week, on Thursday July 6th, NSW Health Minister, The Hon. Brad Hazzard, has shown he's listening to what the community is telling him: 

$200 million hospital upgrade for Wyong

06 July 2017: Media Release - NSW Health Minister, The Hon. Brad Hazzard
Minister for Health Brad Hazzard today announced that the $200 million Wyong Hospital redevelopment will deliver a substantial expansion in health services to respond to the needs of the growing community.

The Wyong Hospital redevelopment comes on the back of the $348 million redevelopment of Gosford Hospital, the medical school ($20 million) and new hospital carpark ($35.5 million).

After careful assessment of expressions of interest from operators, the NSW Government has decided on a Government-led approach for this significant upgrade,” Mr Hazzard said.

Member for Terrigal Adam Crouch, MP said: “The Central Coast community is seeing the benefits of a Liberal-National Government that cares about delivering world-class health facilities.

“This $200 million redevelopment of Wyong Hospital brings the total investment in the future of health services for the Central Coast to $588 million.”

Upgraded facilities to cater for the growing Central Coast region will include:
  • a new emergency department
  • maternity car
  • paediatric services
  • new inpatient surgical beds
  • rehabilitation
  • ambulatory services
  • mental health services
  • additional car parking.
Mr Hazzard said this significant upgrade will go a long way in boosting clinical care for patients and relieving pressure on the emergency department.

Today’s announcement follows extensive consultation with staff at Wyong Hospital as well as the local community to determine the best way to deliver the upgrade.

“Work to prepare for the redevelopment has continued while options for models of delivery were considered, and we are moving full steam ahead to deliver for the community,” Mr Hazzard said.

“I’m also delighted to report that on-site activity will start this year, with the first stage to include extra car parking. This will ensure construction will commence as planned in 2018 and in line with the Government’s commitment.”

“I know first-hand from the conversations I’ve had with people in Wyong that they are excited to see a redeveloped hospital become a reality so we will get on with the job.”

Visit Wyong hospital redevelopment to stay up- to-date as the project progresses.​​​​​

On Friday, July 7th the NSW Government's Health Minister announced the Liberals have decided to ditch plans to part-privatise Bowral and District Hospital and that too will be undertaken by the government alone.

The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association responded immediately, General Secretary of the NSWNMA, Brett Holmes, saying:

“Another day, another victory for the people. This is a sensible outcome for Bowral Hospital and will ensure the redeveloped facility remains in public hands, as it should be,” Mr Holmes said.

“We congratulate NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard for listening to our concerns and not just pressing ahead with the public-private partnership model that was left behind by his predecessor.

“Our members had been extremely concerned, not only about their own job security under a public-private partnership arrangement, but also over the lack of guaranteed safe patient care and accountability of taxpayers’ money.

“There is abundant evidence indicating public-private partnerships in health don’t work. They are an expensive ill-fitting exercise for the health sector that often end up costing the government, and therefore taxpayers, much more than anticipated.

“Local nurses, midwives, doctors and other health workers from Bowral and the surrounding area raised these issues since the proposal was first announced last September and it’s very pleasing to see their hard work and dedication to oppose this plan has been rewarded with the best result.

Mr Holmes also called on the Health Minister to immediately extend the same courtesy to the communities of Shellharbour and Maitland and scrap their hospital privatisation plans.

“Yesterday, Wyong Hospital redevelopment was secured in public hands and today we learned Bowral will be kept public – it is vital the Health Minister does the right thing and delivers a publicly built and operated new hospital in Maitland and also Shellharbour,” said Mr Holmes.

The NSWNMA has reiterated it will continue to campaign all political parties until all proposed public hospital privatisations in NSW are scrapped.

Mona Vale Hospital has not been announced as selected for a hospital partnership program. 
Still, many think it has been slated for such a model based on the invitation for EOI's.

Pittwater must be wondering what Monday July 10th may bring -  will the community be told 'you're dreaming!'
And if so, why?
Video by John Illingsworth - Report by A J Guesdon, 2017.