Is the corporate transformation of hospitals creating a new hybrid health care space? A case study of the impact of co-location of public and private hospitals in Australia

Soc Sci Med. 2004 Jan;58(2):427-44. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(03)00163-1.


A common feature of health reforms in western nations has been the transformation or (re)construction of health and health care as both a commodity and product. In the hospital sector, this transformation has become increasingly evident in the growth of for-profit involvement in service delivery. Investor-owned hospitals are now prominent providers of hospital care in Australia. This paper examines the changing nature of health care space through the changing portrayal and meaning of hospitals as represented by and encoded in the built environment. Public hospitals once occupied 'pride of place'. In contrast, up to the early 1980s, the private sector was seen as a cottage industry. However, increased levels of state subsidisation and government incentives and pro-market policies, combined with market-based opportunities for profit generation, have seen the emergence of large private hospital chains with a new corporate image to hospital care and the blurring of 'public' and 'private'. A significant factor in the reconstruction of hospital space in Australia has been the co-location of private and public hospitals. Co-location is a popular strategy proffered by State governments and one that has been quickly acted on by corporate providers. Using Mayne Health Ltd, Australia's largest for-profit hospital chain, and four specific case studies, this paper explores four variants of co-location. Each of these examples represent a different public and private hospital space. The growth of for-profit hospital chains signifies a new phase in the delivery of health care in Australia but also importantly the creation of a new hybridised 'health care' space. This space is neither private nor public but a reflection of the economic, political and social processes underlying this transformation.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Health Care Reform / organization & administration*
  • Health Facility Merger / trends
  • Hospital Bed Capacity
  • Hospitals, Proprietary / organization & administration*
  • Hospitals, Public / organization & administration*
  • Interinstitutional Relations
  • Organizational Case Studies
  • Ownership / trends
  • Private Sector / trends
  • Privatization / trends*
  • Public Sector / trends