Private hospitals to be integrated into public system

April 1, 2020

The Minister for Health yesterday announced that private hospitals will be enlisted to work in concert with the public system in the coming months, as the nation’s health systems scale-up to manage the anticipated demand on beds as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A formal partnership agreement between the Commonwealth, states and territories and private hospitals is expected to be negotiated and signed this week, which will see an estimated 34,000 additional beds brought online, and staff totaling over 105,000 full and part-time hospital workers being made available for redeployment within the public health system.

Half of the costs of integrating the two systems will be borne by the Commonwealth, which will provide funding certainty to the private sector, after a significant curtailing of non-urgent elective surgery procedures was announced last week, followed by claims from the private sector that closure of hospitals would result.

The uncapped deal is expected to total $1.3 billion, and is contingent on private hospitals retaining their workforce to work in their current facilities or for redeployment into the public system at the direction of the Commonwealth or states and territories.

Private hospitals will support the COVID-19 response through delivering category 1 elective surgery, providing wards and theatres to expand ICU capacity, and providing general care for public patients. There is also scope for private hospitals to provide accommodation for quarantine and isolation cases, including for passengers from cruise ships.

Minister Hunt has emphasised that the deal, while supporting the private sector’s viability, was not to be used to generate profit, or to assist with loan or debt repayments, and was conditional on the sector using funds transparently for operational costs.