Mildura Base Hospital to return to public hands

Amidst a raft of public health cutbacks, sell-offs and rationalisations under Jeff Kennett’s Liberal Government in the 1990’s, the Mildura Base Hospital was privatised in 1998. Since then, the rural community of Mildura has been serviced by a private provider in a publicly owned hospital. After determined lobbying by a community group leading into the last state election, the Andrews Government announced in late August 2019 that it would return the service delivered by the Mildura Base Hospital to public hands.

This is a huge win for the community and for the hospital staff. It has been a long time coming for a community that has lobbied hard for Mildura Base Hospital to be returned to public management. The community consultation leading to this announcement saw an overwhelming response with more than 90% of locals who responded expressing their wish for the hospital to be returned to public hands.

Importantly, staff currently working at the hospital, including Allied Health Professionals, will transfer over to the new public service. The government has also committed an extra $7.5 million for the provision of staff, taking the total deal to more than $120 million dollars allocated this financial year. In addition, nearly $9 million dollars has been invested for a refurbished intensive-care unit, paediatric ward and new theatre equipment.

VAHPA is of the view that health services should be in public hands, rather than with private companies, and regularly resists any attempts to privatise health services. Healthcare providers motivated by profit are often compromised by the need to make a profit and as a consequence, short-change both patients and healthcare staff, potentially impacting on the standard of care and safety standards.  

The outcome at Mildura Base Hospital could not be better for both jobs as well as the provision of healthcare in the Sunraysia region. It is a clear demonstration of what community activism can achieve. The hospital will transition to public ownership from September 15, 2020, when Ramsay Health Care’s current contract is due to expire.