The new Northern Beaches Hospital in Sydney was to be a model for privately run public hospitals. Since it first opened its doors to patients the hospital has been a shambles – a brutal lesson for anyone attempting to defend privatisation.
The hospital, run by Healthscope, might boast ocean views, but it is chronically understaffed and under-resourced. The NSW government spent $600 million on the construction of the new of the “state-of-the-art” facilities and has allocated another $400 million for work on roads in the area.
Healthscope is being paid $1.14 billion over 20 years to run hospital.
In what can only be described as the Americanisation of the health system, Healthscope is out to make the maximum profits possible with short-cuts across the board.
“It is just being done on the cheap. The dollar is the primary motivator and it is inevitable that patient care will be compromised, Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation president Tony Sara said.
Privately run, for-profit hospitals have one aim – maximising profits. Health care is not their prime purpose, it is a vehicle for profit-generation. In fact, companies are obliged by corporations law to put their share holders first. That means patients last.
Numerous reports from staff claim the hospital lacks adequate supplies of vital medications and other products such as insulin, adrenaline, dialysis fluids, heart failure medications, syringes, IV lines, saline bags, needles, swabs, and a host of other basics. Computers allegedly had blank screens, blood tests were sent to the wrong laboratory and even taxi drivers are complaining about signage problems trying to get to the emergency department on unfinished roads.
Staff have reported that there were only six wheelchairs to cater for a 488-bed hospital.
A litany of organisational problems has been reported. These include a card-reader to open security doors being mislabelled, lack of protocols for emergencies, staffing issues and ill-equipped resuscitation trolleys.
One woman, who required an emergency caesarian delivery, is lucky to be alive following a hold-up of one hour due to the chaos as staff tried desperately to source blood and find the equipment they needed.
Elective was cancelled because of serious staff shortages. None of this seemed to register with the NSW Health Minister and Premier who attempted to write off such unacceptable conditions as “a glitch”, “hiccups” or “teething challenges”, at the official opening on November 19.
Hours later the Medical Staff Council called a crisis meeting over concerns for patient and staff safety. It issued a statement supporting trainee doctors. One intern was reportedly allocated 60 patients and a doctor reported working 110 hours in one week.
The hospital’s CEO resigned just days after its opening, pre-empting a vote of no-confidence by senior staff. A senior anesthetist has since resigned. There may yet be industrial action if urgent measures are not taken to ensure conditions are safe for patients and staff.
It now appears that the hospital is now working with the Medical Staff Council and government to try to address some of the issues. It remains to be seen how much progress they can make.
Staff are angry and stressed. Some of the nurses were forcibly redeployed to the new hospital from the Manly hospital which closed when the Northern Beaches Hospital opened.
South Australians may well remember another of Healthscope’s forays into running a public hospital. It won the contract to manage the Modbury Hospital, a public hospital in Adelaide. It was also supposed to build a co-located private hospital on the site.
The co-located hospital was never built. As for the contract to run the privatised public hospital, that proved to be a disaster when profit became the driving force and the public purse was repeatedly used to make extra payments to the company.
There was a huge public campaign against the privatisation of Modbury, likewise the Northern Beaches Hospital. There is strong support for hospitals being public.
Eventually the Modbury Hospital was returned to public management, but only after considerable damage had been done.
In another public-private partnership, NSW contracted Health Care of Australia (parent Mayne Nickless) to run the new Port Macquarie Base Hospital 24 years ago.
Nurses and other staff were shocked by the emphasis given to keeping shareholders happy. They were under the impression that patient care was their priority!
Cost-cutting went to the point of plans to replace all registered nurses by Assistants in Nursing. Eventually things reached a point with staff and public protests, and mounting complaints that the hospital was also returned to public hands.
It is incredible after such debacles that the government is yet again attempting to contract out a major hospital to the private, for-profit sector. Such hospitals cannot provide the quality care that public hospitals do, and they cannot do it as cheaply and efficiently because of the layers of profit built into the system.
At present lives are at risk. The Communist Party of Australia is calling for the auditor-general to immediately intervene, investigate and make public the hospital’s shambolic performance, kick Healthscope out for failing to honour its contract and hand it back to the public sector.
Domestic violence is a major problem in Australia. It’s a form of abuse which may include obsessive control of the victim’s movements, social contacts and/or finances. The majority of domestic violence victims are women and children but they also include men and members of the LGBTIQ community. About 16 million Australian women have experienced domestic violence from a current or former partner since the age of 15. In the 12 months until October 25 this year, 68 women and 12 children died as a result of domestic violence, on average more than one every week.
A new survey has revealed that only a small percentage of Australians now regard consumption of alcohol as an excuse for domestic violence; that men have the right to non-consensual sex in marriage; or that incidents of violence are a private family issue. Unfortunately, an emerging minority claim that women exaggerate problems of violence or inequality.
State and federal governments have funded awareness programs resulting in greater public awareness of the issues and an increase in demand for the specialist services that women require to leave their abusive partners. Unfortunately, at the same time there has been a massive cut in funding for refuges and other services, causing a catastrophic reduction in the number of places where women and their children can seek shelter. As a result, they are often left with little option but to share the minimal charitable accommodation available with men. Legal Aid is also grossly under funded and failing to meet demand.
The Morrison Coalition government now wants to introduce legislation to allow women to access their superannuation savings, in order to help them cope financially after family separation. But why should women have to sacrifice their retirement income to cope with the aftermath of domestic violence of which they are the victims? The government should offer them financial relief so they wouldn’t have to take this drastic step.
The government has introduced legislation to provide victims of domestic violence five days unpaid leave to tackle the multitude of housing, legal, schooling, health and other matters. But why should it be unpaid leave? And only five days, which is nowhere near long enough for them to re-establish their lives in such circumstances? Some unions have gained longer paid leave periods, public sector employees of some state governments already have paid leave, such as in South Australia where they are entitled to 15 days domestic violence leave. New Zealand has granted victims a minimum 10 days paid leave.
Another Stolen Generation
Despite opposition from the Greens, Labor and more than 70 community organisations, the NSW government is implementing a new family dispute policy which will re-enact the Stolen Generation tragedy and affect both Indigenous and non-Indigenous families.
Under the new legislation, in cases where children have been placed in foster care because of domestic violence, the birth parents will have two years to gain reinstatement as primary carers, but if they haven’t achieved reinstatement by then, the children will be given to others for guardianship or adoption.
The NSW Minister for Family and Community Services, Pru Goward says the intention is to prevent children remaining in foster care. She admitted that, “After two or three years in the foster care option, their chances of being returned to a family are extremely low.” However, she effectively blamed her own Department’s employees, commenting “Our view is the Department of Family Services needs to be greater in its sense of urgency.”
Tim Ireland, CEO of AbSec, the NSW peak body for Indigenous children, stated: “... these harmful new laws have been passed in the face of serious concerns from Aboriginal communities as well as the child protection and community service sectors.
“The fact that the NSW government rushed these changes through Parliament without real engagement ... with any of these parties shows that they are not interested in effective reform [or] working with the experts on the ground and investing in true, long-term solutions for the most vulnerable aboriginal children in NSW. ... the lifelong wellbeing and safety of Aboriginal children is at risk here.”
03.Farewell to Daniel
On Friday November 30 activists in Perth gathered at Trades Hall to farewell Daniel Gasparri, Chargé d’Affaires of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Gasparri has spent five years in Australia and during this time he worked tirelessly to break the media misinformation about his country.
He toured several cities bringing together different solidarity groups to strengthen the support for the Bolivarian Revolution. As Guardian readers might know, the government of President Nicolas Maduro has been under enormous pressure from a violent right-wing opposition backed by the United States.
The US has advanced hostile policies towards the Bolivarian revolution and its government. It has manipulated public opinion and often used blackmail to isolate Venezuela from other countries. The Trump Administration even at one point threatened a military invasion of Venezuela.
Purchase of medicine and food-stuffs has also been hindered severely by the US economic blockade imposed on the country. Unfortunately, the Australian government has given bipartisan support and backed up US policies towards the Bolivarian Revolution.
Mick Buchan, CFMEU State Secretary presented Gasparri with a plaque as appreciation for his solidarity and friendship with construction workers in Australia. Elly Hulm also presented Gasparri with a message of solidarity and gift on behalf on the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society, Perth branch. Several other speakers from a number of solidarity organisations expressed their commitment to continue the effort to overcome the right-wing mass media and continue the solidarity work with the Bolivarian people, their government and revolution.
Aboriginal, human rights and legal organisations have joined the NSW Labor and Greens parties to criticise the NSW government’s changes to the state’s adoption laws, fearing they will lead to another Stolen Generation.
Hundreds of people gathered outside NSW Parliament to protest the laws.
The Berejiklian government last month passed legislation changing the process of granting the guardianship of children or adopting them out. Under the plan, birth parents will have two years to be reinstated as primary carers before an alternative permanent home is found.
But Aboriginal, human rights, welfare and community groups, as well as Labor and Greens MPs, are against the changes. Greens MP David Shoebridge said the laws would hurt the most vulnerable children in NSW.
“This will remove more Aboriginal children and basically more poor children from their families, despite what we know about history,” Shoebridge said. “That’s what has united us today, to ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past and the Stolen Generations.”
An open letter signed by more than 70 organisations – including AbSec, Grandmothers Against Removals and Jumbunna – and thousands of people was presented to Parliament, calling on the Government to drop the plan. But Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward accused Labor and the Greens of politicising the issue.
She said the intention of the system is to ensure children are kept with their birth parents but that can’t always happen. The two-year rule ensured a child didn’t languish in the foster care system, she said.
“After two or three years in the foster care option, their chances of being returned to a family are extremely low,” Goward told 2GB radio. “Our view is the Department of Family Services needs to be greater in its sense of urgency.”
Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services Tania Mihailuk said the Berejiklian government had rammed through draconian mandatory adoption laws during the last sitting day of the 56th NSW Parliament after rejecting every amendment proposed by NSW Labor.
Mihailuk said none of the amendments to safeguard children, parents or families from fast tracked pathways to adoption, or to provide adequate judicial discretion with regard to the rights of families and young people were passed by the Liberal-National government. Additional provisions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families were also refused.
She said a Labor government would repeal the legislation.
“Minister Goward has insisted on ramming through this legislation after failing to issue a draft exposure bill or allowing for any public scrutiny,” Mihailuk said. “The lack of consultation and the minister’s dogmatic approach to amendments show her disregard of the sector and the many stakeholders that work in partnership with the government to support the child protection system.
“We’re dealing with incredibly vulnerable and complex families and having an arbitrary figure of two years is not achievable and sets these families up to fail.
“These draconian laws are a last-ditch attempt by Minister Goward to cement a legacy for herself at the expense of vulnerable children.”
Shadow Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Harris said the legislation would impact most on Aboriginal families. “Given what past government policy has inflicted on Aboriginal people through the Stolen Generations and forced adoptions, it seems incredible that this legislation was passed without listening to the experts who deal with Aboriginal families,” he said.
AbSec, the NSW peak body for Indigenous children, chief executive Time Ireland said the legislation threatens to sever another generation of Aboriginal children’s connection to their heritage, family and community and alter the course of their lives forever.
“We are extremely disappointed that these harmful new laws have been passed in the face of serious concerns from Aboriginal communities as well as the child protection and community service sectors,” he said.
“The fact that the NSW government rushed these changes through Parliament without real engagement on the proposed amendments with any of these parties shows that they are not interested in effective reform.
“They are not interested in working with the experts on the ground and investing in true, long-term solutions for the most vulnerable Aboriginal children in NSW.
“We firmly believe the lifelong wellbeing and safety of Aboriginal children is at risk here.
“It is our responsibility to act under this regressive policy of forced adoption and assure support is there when needed.”
At the end of November school children will be going on strike to demand that, because their future and that of their children is threatened by catastrophic changes to the world in which they live, governments all over the world must actually begin to take drastic action now to halt the inevitable. What history tells us is that, unless they take their future into their own hands and seek to overthrow the current system responsible for this catastrophe, nothing much will change.
They will discover they are fighting a system of capital that is far more interested in making money than it is in their future and that this is a system which working class people have been fighting for a very long time. Today we are trying to achieve change politically through the electoral system, but find that the institutions of capitalism, which are responsible for our present situation, are only interested in economics: the markets and what resources they can get their hands on.
Hence the brutal wars which have been, and are still being waged around the world. In Australia, we have a two-party system represented by the Liberals – aided and abetted by the National Party – doing the bidding of big business. Labor, currently in opposition, promises to introduce legislation which will, at best, simply postpone the inevitable catastrophe, because they too are controlled by big business: our whole political system operates solely at the will of big business.
The issue of climate change has become an issue of class warfare. The ordinary people recognise the danger of continuing along the same path and want to change the system that has created it. But the capitalists’ power is in their control of the ownership of the means of production, i.e. the mines and factories. The economic power they wield is quite separate from the power of the state and they can, therefore, make or break world economies.
It is this threat that makes minnows of our politicians. So four or five mammoth corporations with interests in fossil fuel are, in fact, in control of our future.
It is obvious that throughout history the rich and powerful – the capitalist class – were always willing to destroy democracy. Any workers’ uprisings were cruelly and violently put down. As we can see here in Australia, democratically elected governments are destroyed when the interests of the elite are threatened. We only have to look at how Gough Whitlam was treated and how Murdoch’s poison has been used against any government that doesn’t conform to the interests of the ruling class.
So, back to these innocent, enlightened young people who, globally, will leave their classes on November 30. What do they hope to achieve? Will they, like so many working class people who currently face unfair work laws, reduced wages, longer hours and increasing inequality, knuckle down to face an increasingly uncertain future, or will they seriously begin to fight the system?
What if these children were to begin to fight the system literally by taking up arms and demanding justice? We would see bloodshed.
History again confirms this. One only needs to know how uprisings in the past were dealt with by those in power: there were many before the successful 1917 Russian Revolution for which many paid with their lives. Then they were fighting for a fairer society, now we are fighting for the future of the planet and it looks as though it will have to be a fight as that will be the only way to stop the damage being done by big business.
It will be painful, not only physically, but also economically, but unless we start now to reorganise our society and introduce at least a modicum of democracy, it will be too late.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) says the Morrison government’s extreme secrecy around its privatisation of critical Centrelink services confirms that the policy will only benefit multinational corporations.
Human Services Minister Michael Keenan has refused a Senate order to produce a report by global consulting giant KPMG, examining privatised Centrelink call centre services provided by multinational company Serco. Minister Keenan has claimed the KPMG report is a confidential Cabinet document, despite having publicly released selected sections of the report as justification for expanding the privatisation of Centrelink services to three other multinational corporations – Stellar, Datacom and Concentrix.
CPSU deputy secretary Melissa Donnelly said: “The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government has trashed Centrelink services while turning them into a cash cow for multinational corporations, and somehow thinks it can hide its damaging agenda by keeping this report secret. This government is treating both the Senate and the Australian public with contempt.
“Human Services Minister Michael Keenan has heavily spruiked this report in the media, but tellingly he’s only released a few tiny segments that don’t contradict his sales pitch for selling off Centrelink services. It seems the bits of the report the government likes are public but the bits it doesn’t must remain locked away.”
The union points out that it is damning that even a report prepared by KPMG, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Liberals’ love for privatising Commonwealth work, can’t be released to justify putting sensitive Centrelink services in the hands of multinational companies.
“From what we’ve seen Serco, Stellar, Datacom and Concentrix have a patchy record at best of providing services, yet this Government is handing these companies hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Donnelly.
“Ordinary Australians needing to access Centrelink know that service standards have really suffered under this Government, including the 48 million callers who couldn’t even get through on the phone at all in 2017-18. We recently surveyed members to get the real picture on how these costly privately-run call centres are undermining services, along with the growing use of labour hire arrangements.
“This government can’t be trusted with critical public services and has already begun to expand its privatisation agenda from Centrelink into Medicare, starting with the use of labour hire. Australians now know that a vote for the Coalition is a vote for more damaging cuts and privatisation in the Department of Human Services.”
The peak body for working people says the Modern Slavery Bill that passed in the Senate last week is too weak to properly fight to eradicate modern slavery and see it as a missed opportunity to introduce strong measures that would hold companies accountable.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions said the Bill fails to introduce penalties for companies that refuse to take part in a reporting and compliance regime, and appointing an independent anti-slavery commissioner.
Penalties are needed now, not in three years, if we want to properly eradicate slavery – forced labour, child labour, and debt bondage – in the supply chains of companies doing business in Australia and overseas.
As it stands, without fines, there will be no incentive for companies to report what they have done to deal with slavery in their supply chains.
The ACTU also called on a decision not to appoint an independent anti-slavery commissioner to be revised, noting that the experience in the United Kingdom shows us that without fines there is no incentive for companies to report.
“It’s disgusting that slavery exists widely in the supply chains of Australian companies doing business here and abroad and unfortunately this bill has missed an opportunity to really eradicate slavery by making sure companies are fully held accountable,” ACTU president Michele O’Neil said.
“The ACTU calls for civil penalties and the appointment of an independent anti-slavery commissioner as essentials in holding companies accountable for the presence of slavery in their supply chains.
“As it stands this bill doesn’t send a strong enough message to companies – we need fines in order to really be able to say they cannot get away with tolerating the presence of slavery as ‘business as usual’.
“Waiting for three years for a decision on whether to introduce fines to companies that refuse to take part in a reporting and compliance regime is a weak measure, it won’t be effectively in eradicating slavery.”
The Transport Workers’ Union has informed its taxi driver members that the class action is now open to those living in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia, as well as Victoria, following the announcement by Maurice Blackburn lawyers last month which are prosecuting the case.
“Taxi drivers have seen their incomes go into free-fall in the few years Uber has been here,” said Tony Sheldon, the TWU’s co-ordinator on the on-demand economy. “Their businesses have gone under, their families are struggling and some have even been pushed to suicide. The federal government has stood by and let this happen. Rideshare companies need to be regulated to ensure workers have the rights they deserve. Fairness for all drivers will bring a stable ride-share and taxi industry.”
Uber drivers are also struggling on low rates of pay because of continually slashed rates and high company commissions. They face threats and physical and sexual assault, with the choice of turning up to work the next day to earn money or staying at home to recover from their injuries and lose pay.
The union says that the Uberisation of working lives, whether it involves rideshare drivers or taxi drivers, has re-introduced eighteenth century working conditions, this time via an app and that the class action will go some way to put Uber on notice that the Australian community will not accept this.
Uber is hoping for a valuation of $120 billion ahead of its public sale next year but the class action exposes the house of straw it is built on. “Uber is being held to account for the trail of destruction it has caused. Despite its backers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Uber’s liabilities are massive,” Sheldon said.
Uber is operating on a short-term licence in London following a ruling which said it was not a “fit and proper” operator. In the USA in August, New York City Council voted to regulate rideshare companies, capping the number of new vehicles and guaranteeing the drivers a minimum wage.
A survey of over 1,100 rideshare drivers across Australia shows the average pay is just $16 per hour before fuel, insurance and other costs are taken out. One in 10 drivers has been physically assaulted while 6 percent have been sexually assaulted.
Drivers have faced death threats towards them and their families, rape threats, sexual assault, being punched in the face, held at knife-point, had their car windows broken, their cars stolen and have received racial abuse. They have been immediately deactivated from the ride-share apps when passengers leave wallets in their cars or when passengers make entirely false reports. Almost two-thirds of drivers have had false reports by passengers.
The following articles were published by The Guardian, newspaper of the Communist Party of Australia, in its issue of December 5, 2018.
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