Health role for private sector in Queensland

In Australia’s second-largest state, the ruling Liberal National party has unveiled a blueprint for the health sector which calls for more private sector involvement.

In a 48-page blueprint for the state’s health sector, Queensland health minister Lawrence Springborg has called for the greater use of public-private partnerships as part of a big shake-up in the way health services are provided.

Speaking at a Liberal National party fundraiser, he said: “If we can’t actually stack up to what can be provided by the private and not-for-profit sector, then we may as well get them to do it.”

He said a new Infrastructure Innovation Board would be established to help the private sector overcome bureaucracy and a ministerial council would assess any ideas presented to them.

A report in The Australian newspaper said Expressions of Interest (EOI) will be called to build a surgical procedures centre at Brisbane’s Royal Children’s Hospital and for radiation oncology services at the Gold Coast University Hospital.

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA), the Sydney-based infrastructure lobbying group, said introducing competitive disciplines to the health sector would deliver savings that can be used to fund major infrastructure improvements.

“Without real change, Queensland is going broke on the cost of its healthcare system and massive change is needed to rein in waste, improve services and ease the burden that’s stripping the Queensland Treasury of the ability to fund new infrastructure projects,” said IPA chief executive Brendan Lyon in a statement.

Enthusiasm for the blueprint was not universal, however. Federal government Treasurer Wayne Swan warned that some hospitals would be privatised and said the federal government would do everything in its power to stop the plan.

Alex Scott, secretary of the Together public service union, warned of a tidal wave of privatisation and said profits would be put ahead of people.