Questions over possibility of faith-based not-for-profit operator at new Maitland Hospital

Questions have been raised over whether a faith-based health provider could limit services available at the new Maitland Hospital.

The state government announced on Wednesday that a not-for-profit organisation – rather than a private company – would build and run the hospital.

Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison said she had concerns that a faith-based provider could affect whether the hospital offered referrals or services such as pregnancy termination or IVF, which are not in line with some religious beliefs.

The comments came after a report earlier this week that St Vincent’s Health Australia would not practice euthanasia in its Victorian facilities if the state government legalised it.

“NSW is currently considering this bill as well,” Ms Aitchison said. 

“This raises questions for medicinal cannabis, IVF, sterilisation, abortion and other reproductive health issues.

“The government still has to go through an expression of interest process and so we don’t even know which operators will put their hand up.”

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he expected expressions of interest from organisations beyond faith-based not-for-profit groups.

“I understand the local member’s comments with regard to the services,” he said. 

“My response is lets give it time for us to be able to see the range of not-for-profit service providers that come forward and what their actual views are and what we can actually negotiate in our contractual terms.”

A St Vincent’s spokesman said the organisation had noted the new Maitland Hospital announcement, but “we’ve not had any deliberations about whether it’s an opportunity for St Vincent’s Health Australia”.

“Our public hospitals have successfully served the health needs of their local communities for 180 years,” he said. “We’re proud of the work they do and the services they provide.”

Health Infrastructure NSW says it has received “a number” of expressions of interest since Wednesday.