However, AMA Victoria president Dr Roderick McRae said private operators had been generously remunerated for providing workers to the public system.
“I’m aware that the private hospitals negotiated very hard-nosed and profitable contractual arrangements with the government for the provision of those services,” he said.
“AMA Victoria does not oppose private enterprises, who are making massive profits and are for-profit, matching the offer.”
Lisa Fitzpatrick, secretary of Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation’s Victorian branch, said the union had written to every private hospital employer asking them to pay their workers a similar bonus.
“[The union] would like to see all our members receive a retention bonus, no matter what sector they work in,” she said. “[We] won’t be getting into an argument about who should pay, we just want to see our members valued.”
Fitzpatrick also said private hospitals had received significant funding to undertake public work.
A Victorian government spokeswoman said private hospitals were responsible for their staff’s wages. “We would welcome the decision of private providers who choose to implement their own attraction and retention initiatives,” she said.
Ramsay Health Care’s shares surged by more than 25 per cent in April after a consortium of investors offered $20 billion to take it over. However, a spokeswoman for the hospital network said the pandemic had wiped $600 million from its Australian arm’s bottom line, compared with $65 million it had received in government payments.
The spokeswoman said the bonuses, also made to attract staff, would cannibalise health workers from private hospitals.
“It is not a good long-term fix to the national healthcare workforce crisis,” she said. “Without private sector support, the system does not function.”
St John of God Health Care and not-for-profit Epworth HealthCare confirmed they had co-signed a letter to the state government.
“Over the past few years, our private hospitals in Victoria have cared for patients, taking pressure off the public health system and helping to support the local community,” said Dr Shane Kelly, chief executive of St John of God.
Epworth chief executive Dr Lachlan Henderson said the decision to exclude private healthcare workers was “incredibly disappointing”.
To be eligible for the $3000 bonus, workers must be employed in the state’s public health service by July 1 and still be employed on September 30. The first $1500 payment will be made on August 15 and the second at the end of September. Part-time and casual staff will receive a pro rata payment.
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