Geelong Private To Close

Healthscope is set to close Geelong Private Hospital by June 30.

The Geelong Private Hospital, located opposite University Hospital Geelong on Ryrie Street, will close its doors before the end of the financial year.

The closure announcement, made by the hospital’s operator Healthscope to the ASX today, will have hit hard for the hospital’s 293 staff who have just four weeks before they are out of a job. It won’t be any easier for the staff of businesses that rely on the hospital as their major client. It’s never what you want to hear when you turn up to work.

Then there will be the patients who have built relationships with those staff and their families and carers.

It’s a tough day.

The news that Healthscope would be closing two of its private hospitals – the 107-bed Geelong Private Hospital and the 60-bed Cotham Private Hospital in Kew – didn’t feel all that surprising.

For years, rumours have rumbled around town that it was only a matter of time that the 50-year-old private facility would close, muttered in almost the same breath as, ‘Geelong Hospital will take the site over’.

And it makes sense.

Barwon Health spokesperson and Director of Public Affairs & Communications, Kate Bibby, said, “We are pleased that consultation has been undertaken with us that will explore opportunities to use the facility for the betterment of the community.”

As a Geelong Advertiser article pointed out in March, the private hospital’s one-time monopoly on private cardiac care and other private services has been steadily eroded by the redevelopment of St John of God Geelong and the opening of Epworth Geelong in Waurn Ponds; a Healthscope spokesperson denied the private hospital was under financial pressure and would continue to operate, having ‘adjusted accordingly’ to the increased competition.

While major investments in private hospital facilities in the region have had an impact, population growth and the rising burden of chronic disease have also continued to push the capacity of Barwon Health’s public hospital facilities.

Held under a lease by Healthscope until 2032, Barwon Health operates imaging business, BMI, from the Geelong Private site and Ms Bibby confirmed that BMI would continue to operate at the site into the future.

“Barwon Health has been using the theatres at Geelong Private to supplement our existing stock of operating theatres with the intent being to reduce our elective surgery waiting list; it is our intention to work through how we can continue to do this,” she said.

“The Geelong community deserves access to affordable, high quality and safe care. That’s why we’ll be working with the Department of Health and the community to ensure Healthscope’s intention to cease the arrangement to lease the hospital facilities will not impact access to health services in the region.”

With the City of Greater Geelong population forecast to swell from 247,000 in 2018 to 325,000 by 2036 (source), there is no doubt University Hospital Geelong will need to be expanded. The questions will be when, where to and, inevitably, at what cost?

The long-planned $33 million Barwon Health North urgent care centre is currently under construction, and will provide non-emergency services to the city’s northern suburbs, but will not be treating patients until mid-2019. That’s too long for Geelong Private staff that will be looking for a job in a month’s time.

Ms Bibby encouraged Geelong Private staff affected by the closure to apply for positions at Barwon Health as and when they become available, including the 117 additional Barwon Health jobs announced in the aftermath of the closure announcement.

So yes, there is a hard-edged common sense under today’s announcement. But all the relative sense won’t make today or the weeks to come any easier for the staff, patients and families directly impacted by the hospital’s closure. And to the staff, we need your skills and experience to remain here in Geelong and we hope they do.

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