Gladstone Mater Hospital.
Gladstone Mater Hospital. Matt Taylor GLA031018HOSP

HEALTH KICK: Labor's $15m promise for Gladstone hospital

THE Labor party is today expected to commit $15million to buy Gladstone's private hospital if elected.

The promise would see Labor purchase Gladstone Mater from Mercy Health and Aged Care on behalf of the Queensland Government.

In a letter sent to staff and stakeholders last week, chief executive officer Lynne Sheehan said the company was considering selling Gladstone Mater to another provider or Queensland Health.

The hospital closure followed the shutdown of Gladstone Mater's obstetrics services in October.

Opening hours were also reduced in February with falling patient numbers cited as the main reason.

Ms Sheehan said the decision to consider selling to either Queensland Health or a private health provider followed careful consideration of the community's demand.

Federal Opposition spokeswoman for health Catherine King is expected to visit Gladstone today to promise to make the hospital part of Gladstone's public health system.

Labor candidate for Flynn Zac Beers said this would be a "big win" for the Gladstone community.

"It will provide great peace of mind for local families that they'll continue to have access to affordable and quality healthcare," Mr Beers said.

"As one of Australia's major industrial towns it's so important we have the local healthcare capacity."

Labor is also expected to announce today that its bid is part of its Fair Go Action Plan to "fix hospitals and strengthen Medicare".

Ms King said the Federal Government had failed to rein in the cost of private health insurance.

"As a result hundreds of thousands of Australians have ditched their cover - putting many private hospitals like Gladstone Mater at risk," Ms King said.

The Observer understands $15million has not been confirmed as the amount Mercy Health hopes to sell the property for but that the land and facility was estimated to cost between $15-20million.

The move comes at a time when the number of Australians with private health cover is at an 11-year low of 44.6 per cent of the population.

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority found that in December 12,370 people dropped their cover.

The possible closure of the hospital has been described as "very concerning" by former Australian Medical Association Queensland president Gino Pecoraro.

"It does not bode well for other private healthcare players," associate Professor Pecoraro said.

"It points clearly to a need for a major overhaul of how private health is delivered to the community in this country."

Last week Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles called on the Federal Government to purchase the facility and lease it to Queensland Health.

At the time a spokesperson for Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt would not confirm to The Observer if he believed the Federal Government should purchase the facility.