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Wollongong council backs Shellharbour Hospital campaign

Published in the Illawarra Mercury 5 June 2017

Wollongong Council is supporting the campaign to keep Shellharbour Hospital in public hands, with fears a part privatisation of the facility may increase pressure on Wollongong Hospital.

At a public meeting on Monday night, Councillor Jill Merrin put forward a Notion of Motion of support for the community campaign which has been spearheaded by Shellharbour Hospital staff and local residents.

However Cr Merrin said the proposed public-private partnership would also affect Wollongong residents. 

For instance, she said, the increasing number of new residents in West Dapto would heavily rely on the services at Shellharbour.

‘’A privatised Shellharbour Hospital will not be under the same pressure to respond to changes in demographics and patterns of disease and injury,’’ she said.

‘’It is very much in Wollongong’s interests to have Shellharbour Hospital preserved as a public hospital. 

‘’It not only provides services not available elsewhere in the Illawarra but, if privatised, there will be greater pressure on Wollongong Hospital to provide any lost services, such as resource-intensive emergency, intensive care and non-elective surgery.’’ 

Cr Merrin said private operators were accountable to shareholders, not the local communities.

The majority of councillors voiced their support for the campaign though a few – including Liberal councillors Leigh Colacino and Bede Crasnich opposed the motion.

Cr Colacino said he’d like more discussion on the pros and cons of private investment in the region’s hospitals, and was ‘’not happy to fight Shellharbour’s fight’’. 

Cr Crasnich added: ‘’I’ve got nothing against a PPP as long as it doesn’t cost the consumer more.’’

However Cr David Brown said: ‘’Every hospital has a specialty, it’s a network. We can’t draw a government line and say let’s abandon Shellharbour.’’