Nicholas Falconer

Health workers in limbo as question hangs over hospital

THE Sunshine Coast's 2500 public health employees will remain in a state of limbo until the State Government determines whether or not the $1.8 billion regional university hospital will be contracted to private control.

Senior medical practitioners say morale is already low as Queensland Health workers deal with the pressure of ongoing revenue and staff cuts.

"To also have this hanging over their heads makes it even harder,'' one said.

If provision of clinical services at the new hospital is contracted to a private provider, senior clinicians who have spent the past two years designing their delivery would be disenfranchised.

"They won't be able to transition to the new hospital unless they resign from Queensland Health,'' a doctor said. "All are living in a state of limbo.''

The source said clinicians had come to Nambour hospital on the understanding they would transition to the tertiary hospital as Queensland Health employees.

He said the tertiary hospital had attracted people to professorial standard who were excited to be here.

Top-class clinicians would be lost if the transfer to a private operator occurred.

"This has ramifications for clinical services now and into the future,'' he said.

"The Government in its wisdom is not factoring that into the process and result.

"Privatisation would trigger an avalanche of response the Government has not factored and won't like.

"The doctors are on annual contracts with Queensland Health."

Ramsay Health Care, a front runner for the contract, is already building the private hospital adjacent to the regional hospital and also operates Selangor, Noosa and Caloundra private hospitals.

"The word market dominance comes to mind,'' one senior health professional said. "Unfair competition is another. To own a private hospital next door as well as operating the public hospital would seem the ultimate conflict of interest.''

Declarations for 2011-12 show that Paul Ramsay Holdings, whose investments include Ramsay Health Care, donated $505,000 to the Liberal Party of Australia and also $5000 to the Liberal

Party's Victoria division with Ramsay Health Care adding a further $100,000.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said that regardless of the model the university hospital would still need an additional 2500 clinical staff by 2016.

Federal Labor candidate for Fisher Bill Gissane said the State Government's plans were another example of how the region's LNP members had failed to stand up for their community.

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