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Private hospitals caught off guard after nurses were barred from Andrews government’s $3,000 bonus

However, AMA Victoria President Dr Roderick McRae said private operators had been generously compensated for supplying workers to the public system.

“I am aware that private hospitals have negotiated very tough and profitable contractual arrangements with the government for the provision of these services,” he said.

“AMA Victoria is not opposed to private companies, which make huge profits and are for-profit, matching supply.”

Lisa Fitzpatrick, Victorian branch secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, said the union had written to all private hospital employers asking them to pay their workers a similar bonus.

“[The union] would like to see all of our members receive a retention bonus, no matter what industry they work in,” she said. “[We] won’t fight over who should pay, we just want our members to be valued.

Fitzpatrick also said private hospitals have received significant funding to undertake public works.

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A Victorian government spokeswoman said private hospitals were responsible for the salaries of their staff. “We would welcome the decision of private providers who choose to implement their own attraction and retention initiatives,” she said.

Shares of Ramsay Health Care jumped more than 25% in April after a consortium of investors offered $20 billion to take it over. However, a hospital network spokeswoman said the pandemic wiped out $600 million from its Australian arm’s bottom line, compared to $65 million it received in government payments.

The spokeswoman said the bonuses, also intended to attract staff, would cannibalize health workers in private hospitals.

“This is not a good long-term solution to the national health workforce crisis,” she said. “Without the support of the private sector, the system does not work.”

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St John of God Health Care and the non-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 treated patients, relieving pressure on 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 $3,000 bonus, workers must be employed in the state public health department before July 1 and still employed on September 30. The first payment of $1,500 will be made on August 15 and the second at the end of September. Part-time and casual staff will receive pro-rated payment.

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