The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, has hit back at private hospital operators after the sector accused the state government of excluding their staff from prospective $3,000 bonus payments for healthcare workers.
On Monday, Andrews stressed that the state government did not employ private healthcare staff and said some for-profit providers had done “particularly well” in recent years.
“We don’t do their enterprise bargaining so we’re not doing the paying of their wages,” he sad.
“They [private hospitals] should spend a little bit more time rewarding their staff appropriately rather than calling upon others to do it.”
“They might want to get on with … nurse-to-patient ratios as well while they’re at it, [those] are not in the private system,” he said, referring to a mandated ratio of one nurse to every four patients in Victoria’s public health system that was legislated in 2015.
The Age reported on Sunday that private healthcare operators Ramsay Health Care, Epworth HealthCare and St John of God had pressed the government on why their workers had been snubbed by the scheme, claiming they were blindsided by the announcement.
A Ramsay Health Care spokesperson said the $3,000 payments could lure private healthcare workers into the public system.
“The Victorian government will be relying on the goodwill of private health workers to provide this ongoing assistance,” the spokesperson said.
“Without private sector support, the system does not function.”
Catholic provider St John of God Health Care declined to comment. Epworth HealthCare, which is not-for-profit, did not respond to questions.
The Victorian government announced the payments last week in a bid to retain and entice back healthcare workers during the challenging winter period. It came just days after New South Wales announced $3,000 “appreciation” payments for the state’s public healthcare workers.
The $3,000 payments – to be made in two instalments – are for full-time staff working in Victoria’s public hospitals and ambulance services like cleaners, nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.
To receive the full payment, workers need to be employed by a public health service by 1 July and still be employed on 30 September. Those who start between 1 July and 30 September will be eligible for a pro rata payment, as will casual and part-time staff, based on how many hours they work.
The payments will be made in two rounds – the first on 15 August, the second at the end of September
The Victorian government’s $353m package also included free meals to staff who work overnight shifts.
Victoria and NSW have both outlined plans to recruit extra healthcare workers to tackle skilled visa approval delays plaguing a range of sectors, including healthcare. The two states have also pushed for an overhaul of federal health funding.
Prior to the election, premiers in both Labor and Liberal-led states – backed by the Australian Medical Association – had urged the Morrison government to abolish its 6.5% annual growth cap on hospital funding and lift its contribution from 45% to 50%. The AMA has estimated that a 50-50 public hospital funding split and the removal of the cap – introduced by the Turnbull government in 2017 – would cost the commonwealth $20.5bn across four years.
A Covid funding deal that provided additional commonwealth investment for Covid-related health costs is also due to expire in September. Andrews has argued this should be extended, warning the effects of the pandemic will not end after winter.