On 19 Nov 2018 we scored a major triumph, the Quinella! Not only were we both published in the SMH, but Anne had the lead letter and I was second. We weren't going to quibble about their heavy editing. The topic of both was the shambolic performance of the new Northern Beaches Hospital, which had opened on 30 October, and was much in the news. Included here are the other letters on the same subject, and it's well worth reading down to the last one.
Hospital a Basket Case but it’s no real surprise (SMH 19 Nov 18)
With the building of the Northern Beaches Hospital, residents of Frenchs Forest have been subjected to three years of traffic and other disruption ("Brand new hospital 'courting disaster'", November 17-18). The massive and ugly roadworks are running a year behind schedule. Hoardings around the hospital site boasted of a $500 million spend. The reported cost is now $600 million, a blowout of 20 per cent.
To add insult to injury, we learn the new hospital is a shambles. Two functioning, yet poorly maintained, hospitals were closed and patients moved to a state-of-the-art institution that wasn't ready. I'm furious so much money can be spent, so much political boasting can be done, and yet at the last hurdle the management team can stumble in such an astonishing way. I'm even more furious that minister Brad Hazzard and Gordon Ballantyne, the boss of Healthscope, offer nothing but weasel words. This is a hospital. Patients are depending on it running smoothly from day one. – Anne Carpenter, Frenchs Forest
What do you expect when you privatise public facilities without adequate supervision and control? Our blow-hard politicians are quick to blame private contractors, but the fundamental problem is of their own making. When Hazzard, then planning minister, designated Frenchs Forest as the site for the hospital, he ignored NSW Health's Development Options Business Case, a "robust qualitative analysis" that ranked Frenchs Forest a distant third out of the six sites considered. Now the politicians and their planning lackeys want to develop a new "town centre" on the last bit of green space we have. A lovely residential suburb is being destroyed. – Paul Cunningham, Frenchs Forest
The shambles is because, according to Hazzard, almost 2700 patients have gone through emergency in the 16 days since the hospital opened. Could the huge numbers be in part because Hazzard has closed the emergency department at Mona Vale Hospital? Why? Because the northern beaches is traditionally a strong Liberal area. It therefore is not electorally damaging that people now have to drive an extra 30 minutes for medical assistance. On arrival, delays of six hours in the new hospital's emergency department are common. Meanwhile, the Band-Aid centre at Mona Vale Hospital remains empty. – Sue Martin, Avalon Beach
We were promised a new public hospital and faster buses. We have received a dysfunctional, privately run hospital and the new B1 service resulting in an overall slower trip. – Denis Goodwin, Dee Why
NSW has seen this before. When Port Macquarie Base Hospital was privatised in the 1990s, it was so badly run the government had to buy it back – at twice the cost. What will it take for politicians to dismount from their ideological high horse and concede privatising public hospitals is a bad thing, a body bag? Oh wait, Northern Beaches Hospital doesn't have any. – Daniel Sharp, Freshwater
Having experienced Healthscope's idea of post-operative care at Prince of Wales private after my bilateral knee replacement, problems at the Northern Beaches Hospital come as no surprise. But nothing can top my four-month battle with Healthscope Pathology over its attempt to charge me for a pap smear. – Timothy Ashton, Glebe
There aren't too many ways available for venting one's anger or frustration at some of the things happening in the world around us. One such escape valve is the good old Letter to the Editor, even if only a small proportion of them gets published. It is often well-nigh impossible to keep the discussion short enough for the newspapers. So rather that have them expire in some Editor's Trash bin, we'll preserve them for posterity here. Inevitably, though, some nuances will be lost for those unfamiliar with the background or the letter or article to which we are responding. But each is undoubtedly a miniature literary masterpiece, though you may find the themes become somewhat repetitive.