Health Minister dismisses opposition to Midland Hospital being privately run

Entrance to Midland Public Hospital, including sign in foreground

Health Minister Kim Hames has dismissed a Labor poll suggesting people in the catchment for the new Midland Hospital were opposed to it being privately run.

Dr Hames was at the official opening ceremony for the new 307-bed hospital, which has been built as a public-private partnership with Catholic hospital operator, St John of God.

St John of God will operate the public hospital providing free medical care, alongside its own private hospital in the same complex.

Labor claims a poll it commissioned in catchment area for the hospital, which begins operating next Tuesday, showed a majority of people surveyed did not like private organisations running public hospitals, and did not believe it would save taxpayers money.

Labor said almost 70 per cent of the 650 people polled believed privatisation would lead to taxpayers paying more for health services, rather than less.

Opposition Health spokesman Roger Cook said the poll suggested people remained unconvinced by the government’s arguments in favour of privatising some health services.

“I think this sends a clear message to the Barnett Government that privatisation of health is not a popular issue, and that they should significantly wind back any ambitions they have to further privatise the hospital system,” Mr Cook said.

But Dr Hames said Labor’s criticism was baseless, and he believed the public private partnership at Joondalup Health Campus had already demonstrated that the concept works.

“I think if you said that to the people of Joondalup and said you were going to take that away, you’d have a riot on your hands, because the quality of service provided through Joondalup is excellent,” he said.

Hospital will cater to all: WA Government

The State Government has also sought to dispel confusion over the new Midland Hospital, saying the Catholic-run public hospital will be free and open to all.

The official opening ceremony today repeatedly emphasised that the hospital would cater for the diverse community in Midland.

Dr Hames said Opposition criticism of the public-private partnership with St John of God had led many people to believe they would have to pay for public health services.

“That was the perception that the Labor Party, leading up to the last election, were trying to perpetuate and I think they did that very well because there was a lot of fear out there, amongst the community, that people were going to have to pay when they came to the hospital,” he said.

Close-up head and shoulder shot of WA Health Minister Kim HamesPHOTO: Mr Hames says the new Midland Public Hospital is free and open to all. (ABC News: Andrew O’Connor)

But Dr Hames said while the public hospital would be run by the Catholic organisation, it would welcome all members of the community.

“So we’ve done a lot of work to make sure people understand that they do not have to pay,” he said.

“This is a public hospital and all services provided to the public will be free of charge, the same as all of our other public hospitals.”

The opening ceremony also included a formal blessing of the hospital, led by Catholic Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, but joined by leaders of all faiths.

“As a facility under the care of a Catholic organisation, the hospital will be grounded in the mercy, compassion and respect for the worth and dignity of every human person, which are the values we have learned from the teachings and actions of Jesus,” he said.

“They are, of course, the same values that are at the heart of every religion, every faith, and are found in the heart of every person.”

Dr Hames said birth control and abortion procedures not available at the new Catholic-run public hospital in Midland would be offered at a government-funded clinic nearby.

St John of God has refused to offer birth control and abortion services in the public hospital, or have them offered by another operator on the same site.

Dr Hames said those services would be provided by Marie Stopes International at another premises in Midland.

“And those services that can’t be provided in this hospital, like vasectomies, which were only a very small proportion of the numbers of procedures at the former hospital, will be provided just down the road from here at Marie Stopes International,” he said.