The Guardian November 1, 2000


Private hospital returned to public control

The La Trobe Regional Hospital is to be returned to public control on 
November 1. Private operator, Australian Hospital Care has negotiated with 
the Bracks Government to end its 20-year contract which was signed during 
the Kennett years.

Earlier this year the company launched legal action in the Supreme Court 
against the Victorian Government. It claimed $10 million in damages from 
the Victorian Government for under-funding the hospital and not fulfilling 
other contractual obligations.

The company has agreed to drop the legal action and pay the Government 
around $1 million to end the contract.

Victoria's Health Minister said that there would be no job cuts or 
reductions in pay or conditions for the 1,000 staff employed at the 
hospital.

The Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) Victorian Branch had negotiated an 
agreement with the private operator at the time which provided similar pay 
and conditions to those paid to public sector employees.

The Minister said that the return to public ownership would allow the 
hospital to expand its services in mental health and radiotherapy.

The Federal Labor Opposition has promised to establish an independent 
inquiry into all privatised hospitals if it wins next elections.

This is the second time that the Victorian Government has taken control of 
a privatised service.

Early in October the Government sacked the private operators of the Deer 
Park women's prison for repeated breaches of contractual obligations.

The Government has also pulled the plug on a planned privatisation.

"There was a plan to privatise the Austen hospital which is a major 
tertiary referral centre and those plans have been rescinded so it will 
remain in public hands and refurbished and rebuilt", said the ANF 
spokesperson.

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