Northern Beaches Hospital model slammed

A NSW upper house inquiry into Northern Beaches Hospital has criticised public-private partnerships.
A NSW upper house inquiry into Northern Beaches Hospital has criticised public-private partnerships.

The NSW government should shun public-private partnerships for all future public hospital builds, a parliamentary inquiry into Sydney's beleaguered Northern Beaches Hospital has recommended.

But the NSW health minister says he won't rule out other public-private partnership agreements in the longer term.

The upper house inquiry into the Frenchs Forest hospital - which replaced Manly and Mona Vale hospitals - began in August 2019 amid claims the facility had "lurched from crisis to crisis" since opening in late 2018.

It examined over three public hearings the operation of the facility, including standards of service, staffing and public-private partnership arrangements.

In recommendations released on Thursday, the parliamentary committee found the public-private hospital model had the "potential to negatively affect people from lower socio-economic backgrounds".

The committee recommended the government eschew public-private arrangements for future public hospitals and restore the status of Mona Vale Hospital to a "level three" emergency department.

The facility is currently serving as a sub-acute "urgent care centre".

Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Thursday said the government had no intention of entering into other public-private hospital arrangements but future governments "can do what they like".

He also ruled out upgrading Mona Vale Hospital.

"I'm extremely satisfied the hospital is doing an extraordinary job for the community ... the inquiry was put together by the Labor Party and it was done for purely political steps," Mr Hazzard said.

Under the public-private arrangement, contractor Healthscope designed, built and operates Northern Beaches Hospital, and is obliged to deliver public patient services for at least 20 years.

The contractor is paid by the government to provide public health services while the Frenchs Forest site is publicly owned.

However, there was a litany of problems at the $600 million, 488-bed facility after its launch, including medical supply shortages, staffing issues and waits of more than 24 hours for care.

Six senior appointees, including the chief of medicine, medical director and director of nursing, resigned soon after.

Labor has also accused the hospital of operating under a two-tier model in which private patients are prioritised.

Healthscope in September confirmed it was contracted to provide "level five" public patient care which excludes procedures such as heart and brain surgery.

The opposition on Thursday urged the government to accept the report's recommendations and renounce future public-private partnerships.

"This government is obsessed with privatisation and again it's the community paying the price with poor services and bad outcomes," Labor health spokesman Ryan Park said in a statement.

The Health Services Union echoed Labor's remarks and called on the government to take over running the hospital.

"Health takes up one-third of the state budget - there are plenty of people out there gouging the health system, let's call that for what it is," union secretary Gerard Hayes said.

Community group Save Mona Vale Hospital said in a statement that the root of the problem has been the "disregard" for the community and the privatisation of the area's local hospitals.

Healthscope admits to experiencing problems when the Northern Beaches Hospital first opened but, in a statement on Thursday, said the issues had been rectified.

Australian Associated Press