Public Health First community group

Public Health First members Keith Smith, Gordon Markwart, Edna Charmichael and Peter Edwards want to make sure the community is kept informed about developments regarding Bowral and District Hospital. Photo: Claire Fenwicke
Public Health First members Keith Smith, Gordon Markwart, Edna Charmichael and Peter Edwards want to make sure the community is kept informed about developments regarding Bowral and District Hospital. Photo: Claire Fenwicke

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“We don’t want to see a private operator have the monopoly on healthcare.”

This is the concern of Public Health First members, a new community group formed to challenge the proposed public private partnership (PPP) at Bowral and District Hospital.

Chairperson Edna Charmichael, along with group members Councillor Gordon Markwart, Peter Edwards and Keith Smith, said they felt it was time the public were given access to all information.

“Public Health First has little faith in PPPs and has grave concerns Bowral and District Hospital could eventually be operated privately,” Ms Carmichael said.

“There has been a lack of proper consultation and most information presented so far has had no basis or background to it,” she said.

All four members had attended a Health Infrastructure community consultation session at some point last year, and said the sessions were not sufficient.

“The questions being answered were not the questions we’re asking,” Cr Markwart said.

“We want to create the forum for the community to ask their questions. A consultation is where information is given and you can give feedback – they’re just selling us what they want.”

Mr Edwards said as the hospital was government-owned, they were obliged to have proper community consultation. “This is a major thing happening in the shire, but because it’s through the government the door is shut,” he said.

He said he was also confused that the clinical services plan – which would show where the $50 million in state government funding would be spent – was not available to the public.

“Jai Rowell and Pru Goward have seen it, so why can’t we?” he said.

“This hospital is regarded as a Level 3, with a full-time emergency department that is manned constantly. We’re concerned [Ramsay Healthcare] won’t want the hospital to be Level 3 anymore as it is very expensive in terms of staff and equipment.”

Mr Smith said he was concerned the money would be spent without input from the community.

“Most people I’ve spoken with don’t want a PPP, and there has been no opportunity for the public to express their voice,” he said.

“I’m also concerned there have been no consultation sessions in the villages – they use the hospital too.”

Residents can join the group by searching ‘Public Health First’ on Facebook.