HEALTH Minister Lawrence Springborg says outsourcing inefficient Queensland health services will not undermine free public health care as his proposed health reforms cop criticism.
He said a pathologist, who had transitioned from the private sector, wrote to him in his first weeks as minister to express her disbelief at the productivity of her service and it was this inefficiency he hoped outsourcing would stamp out.
Mr Springborg, while unveiling his "blueprint" for future Queensland health services, said the Sunshine Coast University Hospital project would be the first to gauge viability for running clinical services through the private or not-for-profit sector.
"We're now looking at heart services and clinical services being run under a different model," he said.
"Patients don't really care who delivers their services, they just want to know it's quality, that it's in a reasonable time and available to them somewhere close to home.
"I make this commitment today that we are not undermining free public health care in Queensland, we are looking at different ways of delivering free public health care."
Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan, in Brisbane, said Wednesday was a "sad day for the Queensland health system".
He said it was bad enough the Queensland Government had sacked about 4000 workers let alone outsource or privatise services.
Mr Swan questioned whether the LNP was committed to the fundamental Medicare concept "that people have access to quality health care in a free public hospital system".
"We've seen here in Queensland, over the past 12 months, the Liberal Party take a sledgehammer to the Queensland public hospital system and now they're going to privatise or sell some other bits of it," he said.
"This is a real threat to Medicare and it goes to the very core of what our country should be doing to provide quality health care for all Australians, but particularly Queenslanders."
Queensland Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said selling off Queensland's public hospital system was just the first wave of privatisations the Newman Government had planned.
She said introducing "contestability" for health services across Queensland regional hospital and health services, plus access to "new capital sources", were LNP code for outsourcing and privatisation.
"The LNP's blueprint is a recipe for handing over the hospital system belonging to Queenslanders to private conglomerates which will put profits before patients," she said.
"The easiest way to do that is to have fewer jobs, lower wages and conditions, and reduced service standards.
"No hospital service including pathology, radiology and pharmacy - and therefore none of the 80,000 jobs in the health system - will be safe from the LNP's privatisation plans."
Mr Springborg has also flagged streamlining awards and entitlements from the existing nine awards, six agreements and 189 human resources policies which covered 80,000 staff.
Two nurses, working side by side, doing the same thing can take home different pay, his blueprint stated.
"Nurses who work at Baillie Henderson in Toowoomba are on a different set of conditions to nurses who work in the Toowoomba Hospital," it read.
"Many staff need to work in both areas - creating an administrative nightmare for managers."
Blueprint key features:
- More health services provided through public, private and not-for-profit health providers and partnerships.
- New independent Mental Health Commission from 2013 to guide government strategy and investment.
- Rural Telehealth Service will provide bush communities with first-time access to new services through technology.
- Queensland Health's corporate office will become 43% smaller, with resources redirected to service delivery.
- Awards and entitlements will be streamlined.
- Staff can identify and report waste and system improvement to reform from within.
- New Ministerial Health Infrastructure Council to assess private investment in health services and infrastructure.
- Performance benchmarks improved and published quarterly. 24 more hospitals to begin reporting data.
- Emergency maintenance in 12 regional hospitals has begun at a cost of $52 million.