Around 100 Royal Perth Hospital workers have held a stopwork meeting to oppose state government plans to contract out support services for Perth's new Fiona Stanley Hospital to a private company.
The state government has announced that Serco Australia will run management and support services at Fiona Stanley when it opens in mid-2014.
Health Minister Kim Hames said WA Health would continue to employ doctors, nurses and allied health professionals to provide healthcare, but Serco would carry out the behind-the-scenes work at the new hospital.
He said the facilities management services contract for the new public hospital in Murdoch, in Perth's south, was worth up to $4.3 billion over 20 years.
Monday's protest was organised by United Voice, the union representing hospital support workers and further stopwork meetings are planned at other WA public hospitals.
Union Secretary Dave Kelly told the meeting the government had negotiated the Serco deal without transparency and behind closed doors.
"Serco are a big company who are expert at one thing and that's how to make a profit out of taxpayers' money."
He said the company had "made a hash of" Australian immigration detention centres that it managed and "made a fortune" in the process.
Mr Kelly said the WA government had said there no services would be privatised in existing public hospitals before the next election, but workers could not trust the government not to do so if it won a second term.
The services to be covered by Serco include catering, cleaning, linen, security, energy and utilities, estate and grounds maintenance, sterilisation, health records management, internal logistics, supplies management and reception services.
Dr Hames said the contract has two five-year extension options and included strict performance indicators, requiring Serco to improve its performance over the length of the deal.
“The evaluation has been extremely rigorous and we are confident that our new public hospital will benefit from Serco’s wealth of experience running high quality support services at public hospitals in the United Kingdom,” Dr Hames said.
“During the evaluation, the government team investigated the quality of existing services by visiting existing hospital sites overseas and in Australia and where Serco or its subcontractors provide services.
“At every hospital, facilities management staff, the clinical staff and patients confirmed that the Serco services were innovative and of the highest quality.”
The deal is the second major contract announced by the UK-based Serco in the past two months.
In May the state government announced Serco would provide prisoner transport, court security and custodial services.
Serco also runs the ticketing and transport information service for Transperth, as well as providing services at Acacia prison.
It also is the owner-operator of the Indian Pacific train, provides correction and rehabilitation services at Acacia Prison, and maritime support to the Navy at HMAS Stirling through its joint venture with DMS Maritime.
In 2009, Serco signed a five-year contract to manage and operate seven immigration detention centres, including those at Christmas Island and Northam.