Health Minister Tony Ryall must step in to end the experiment in privatisation being conducted by the Waitemata District Health Board (DHB), Green Party health spokesperson Kevin Hague said today.
Waitemata DHB has contracted with particular surgeons to work privately, at substantially higher pay rates than normally paid, in the new Elective Surgical Centre at North Shore Hospital. In the face of vociferous opposition to this privatisation, the DHB attempted to justify the decision by saying that the inflated payment would cover the whole "package of care" needed for each surgical patient. Now intensive care specialists elsewhere at the hospital have been told by the DHB that they will be expected to provide stabilisation and related services for elective surgical patients, should things start to go wrong.
"This is a very clear case of privatising profits but socialising risks," said Mr Hague.
"The DHB's actions seem extraordinary. It's as if they are so desperate for this privatised service to succeed that they have been forced into an action that is plainly not in the public interest.
"The scheme they have designed seems to be entirely about maximising profit for a small number of surgeons working in private."
Mr Hague said that the move also was indicative of what is happening when hospitals have to concentrate on the Minister's elective surgery target at the expense of everything else.
"The DHB already rejected the plea from intensive care specialists that there should be a corridor from the new ESC to the main hospital, so now we are presented with a very graphic example of specialists being dragged away from their regular, vital work to provide services in a wholly different location in order to facilitate this new arrangement for elective surgery without damaging the surgeons' private profit," said Mr Hague.
"If they are busy stabilising a surgical patient in the ESC (something a more junior doctor would ordinarily do) then they can't also be doing their actual job with patients who have acute need for intensive care.
"The DHB has been pursuing this scheme to try to meet the Minister's demands, and with his encouragement.
"Now he has to end it."