Gladstone’s Mater Hospital.
Gladstone’s Mater Hospital.

Jobs, services and private health: What the Mater plan means

THERE is optimism that the State Government's plan to buy Gladstone's private hospital will create jobs, attract and retain specialists and improve access to healthcare services.

The proposed model will see private healthcare services offered from the state-owned hospital.

BITS Medical Centre doctor Gaston Boulanger, who has spent years campaigning for improvements to the region's medical services, welcomed the plan.

Following an extended and sustained effort calling for action, he said "I'll believe it when I see it", but believed the public/private model was "essential".

Dr Boulanger said small theatres and no ICU limited the types of surgeries that could be done in Gladstone, and the proposal would help retain doctors who had traditionally suffered through limited opportunities to practice specialties.

He cited Gladstone Hospital's former director of surgery, Dr Stefaan De Clercq, a specialist in bariatric surgery, who left for Bundaberg.

Dr Boulanger said the purchase of the Mater would give doctors access to larger theatres as well as capacity for an ICU and more hospital beds.

"It's very important that they not only buy the hospital but utilise it from day one," he said.

He said recruiting doctors was never the major issue for the region, but it was difficult to retain staff.

The model gives doctors options to work across the public and private sectors as well as providing residents with the opportunity to make better use of private health policies.

"A lot of people have private health and they cannot utilise it in Gladstone, they have to travel," he said.

Negotiations between the state and the Mater are ongoing and a spokesman for Queensland Health said it was aiming to have an outcome as soon as possible.

"The acquisition of this facility will likely create job opportunities for the Gladstone community from a public and private hospital perspective as we continue to work through a model which will see private services provided on this site," they said.

"Should the purchase proceed, we will consult with the relevant unions on hospital staffing."

In a statement, the Mater said it was working with Queensland Health to "negotiate an appropriate transition of services and will continue to advocate for our staff who wish to continue their employment under the new ownership."

Health Minister Steven Miles flagged the government's intention to purchase the hospital when he detailed a plan to use the facility as a dedicate COVID-19 ward should it be needed.

The Mater has been on the market for more than a year and previous estimates suggest the hospital could cost up to $20 million.





Doctor Gaston Boulanger.
Doctor Gaston Boulanger.