Sid Duckett

FORMER Mildura Base Hospital CEO Sid Duckett has mixed feelings about the transition of the hospital back to public administration, even though he ran the old base hospital when it was still in community hands more than 20 years ago.

“I know at the time we were extremely frustrated by the fact that we just couldn’t redevelop the hospital, and it was virtually impossible to run it within the financial constraints, because of the physical nature of the hospital being very old, with very inefficient wards,” Mr Duckett said this week.

“We put a lot of proposals to the Government at the time – Labor and Liberal – about needing to upgrade the place, because it was financially an inefficient building to run.

“The thinking was that the only way you can do it, is to privatise it, because they were prepared to come in to do it. There were some things that were good about it, and some not so good, but I don’t think the community’s need were paramount.”

Mr Duckett said a lot of his administration’s planning indicated that the new hospital should have been built in a different location.

“We envisaged a site a lot further out somewhere, where you had adequate space for expansion and car parking,” he said.

And as for building opposite the waste management site, Mr Duckett said: “We hadn’t considered that site at all.”

Mr Duckett would retire from his position before the new hospital was built.

“Ramsay’s had their own management team and I was on the verge of retiring and I had no desire to make the transition to the new hospital in any event,” he said.

“I think it will be a wait and see in terms of how the hospital runs (back in public administration). The whole operation is dependent on Government money, I don’t really see things changing all that much to be quite honest.”

In 1999, it was announced that a consortium of Ramsay Health Care and Lend Lease, were the preferred tenderer for the building of the new Mildura Public Hospital.

At the time, Ramsay Health Care’s Managing Director Pat Grier said “The company was looking forward to providing free, accessible, high quality public health services to the people of Sunraysia”.

“We will be seeking to work in partnership with other health care providers to meet the health care needs of the community. Working in partnership with other groups is one of Ramsay’s key strengths and something that we think sets us apart,” Mr Grier said.

“We will be providing a purpose-built facility which takes into account the unique needs of a rural community like Sunraysia.”

By the end of the first decade of Ramsay’s operation of the hospital, a ground swell of opposition would grow, in large part led by a group of local medicos, Barry Dowty and Kevin Chambers.

Dr Dowty, who was a consultant physician with Mildura Base Hospital for 33 years, was a vocal critic of the private management model.

His concerns included the lack of salary packaging for staff, the lack of community and staff involvement in decision-making.

Surgeon Kevin Chambers said that while he was pleased the MBH will soon be back in public hands, he expects that it will take some years before it settles down into a well run hospital again.

“I think it will be a tremendous upheaval, which should never have happened in the first place and that’s not a reflection on who the administration or the board is.

“It has been my main regret during my time in Mildura, seeing the destruction of a good hospital and a good service to the local population, being destroyed.”

Mildura’s hospital returns to public administration next month.