The dispute between Infrashore, the consortium responsible for the $1.1 billion public-private partnership (PPP), the subcontractor ISS Health Services and the government body Health Infrastructure has now reached a turning point.
According to a Sydney Morning Herald article (3 March) by Amy Corderoy, ‘infectious patients at Royal North Shore Hospital are being abandoned in corridors for hours because there are no clean rooms for them, leading nurses to write to the NSW Health Minister begging her to urgently intervene in a long-running dispute about staffing.’
‘People with incontinence who need cleaning and others who need turning and pressure-sore care are being left for up to two hours because of the shortage in cleaning and portering staff, the Royal North Shore Hospital branch of the NSW Nurses Association told the Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, last week.’
The dispute has been playing out in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission after the Health Services Union complained about ISS slashing casual staff numbers because it claimed it could no longer bear their cost. This has lead to the argument that a significant increase in staff is needed, but no one will pay.
‘Another document obtained by the Herald shows hospital administrators acknowledged months ago an “insidious unfunded expansion” of services at the hospital. The ”Draft Financial Plan” for the Royal North Shore redevelopment says the hospital will be subject to an additional $6.9 million a year of recurrent unfunded operating costs, and that nearly 26 additional staff is needed.’
However, the article states Health Infrastructure chief executive Robert Rust flatly denied the allegations of an ”insidious unfunded expansion” and said the document was not endorsed by the local health district.
‘Skinner did not respond in detail to the Herald’s questions about the dispute, including questions about the level of activity now compared with when it signed the public-private partnership (PPP) deal with Infrashore, the biggest of its kind for a NSW hospital.’
“The contract provides for appropriate growth in activity and if ISS believes there is an increase in activity or services in excess of that provided for in the contract, there are avenues within the contract to claim,” she said.
‘Rust said when ISS cut staff ”Health was quick to intervene to ensure that patient care was prioritised”, and as part of the industrial process ISS had committed to engage 20 extra staff.’
NSW Health Minister Skinner has yet to intervene in the dispute.