Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Howard's Takeover of Mersey Hospital

Prime Minister John Howard has indicated that the Federal Government will fully fund Devonport's Mersey Hospital.

The hospital has the following characteristics:
  • it is in a marginal seat in Tasmania (Braddon)
  • the Hospital, a lower-level "Community Hospital", has neither obstetrics, nor an Emergency department
  • the Hospital has a history of losing money. Mayne Health sold it in 1993 to Healthscope
  • Healthscope signed a 15 year (+10 year option) with the (then) Liberal Tasmanian Government to run the public hospital and provide health services.
  • the hospital has had several service downgrades, because it keeps losing money.
  • the hospital was eventually handed back to the (now Labor) Tasmanian Government to run as a public hospital.
  • there are two other, larger, hospitals nearby
Mr Howard has responded to allegations of political pork-barrelling by saying:
"They wouldn't regard it as cynical pork barrelling, they would regard it as saving a vital community service."

But is it a "vital community service" when there are two other, larger hospitals; it has no Intensive Care Unit, no obstetrics and no Emergency Dept?

Other questions to be asked by voters are:
  • Will the Federal Government use its financial influence to insist that all workers be on AWA's? Is that want nurses, doctors, cleaners, adminstrative staff want? Does the community want lower incomes?


  • If a Community-grade hospital is so vital, what about the 600+ other regional public hospitals in Australia? Why are they not being funded?

Mr Howard claims the hospital serves a regional population of about "70,000 people". As with many statements made by politicians, there is a "but": that figure includes the population of Burnie and surrounding districts. Devonport and surrounding regions have a population of about 30,000. That's less then half the figure quoted by Mr Howard.

John Howard appears to be being very selective, with the electorate he has chosen, the population figures he quotes, and the selective (even exclusive) nature of this "policy". Such behaviour almost certainly indicates that he his acting in his own interests, and not those of the wider Australian community.

A previous study of the Mersey Hospital saga, dated 2005, can be found here .