9 News, March 28, 2020
Frantic negotiations are underway to save more hospitals from closing and ensure tens of thousands of beds could be used to treat coronavirus patients.
Private hospital company Healthe Care has already stood down 800 staff and is putting in doubt 8000 beds at 34 private hospitals across Australia after the federal government cancelled elective surgeries in response to the COVID-19 spread.
In a letter to staff, a copy seen by 9News, Healthe Care stated that the availability of private hospitals is at risk. It is now putting the pressure on state and federal governments for financial help.
Chinese billionaire Liu Dian Bo bought Healthe Care for $900 million in 2015. Now, the company, which 9News understands was already facing financial pressure, is putting the heat on federal and state government for help.
“We have received no firm proposals,” the company’s letter to staff said.
“Regrettably, this has driven us to these immediate actions.”
Other private hospitals are threatening to follow suit.
“We need it to be solved by the end of this weekend or hospitals will start to close,” Australian Private Hospitals Association Michael Roff told 9News.
Ramsay Health Care has 25,000 beds at 72 private hospitals and is now sending staff on leave.
Healthscope has 4400 beds at 43 hospitals.
States and territories responsible for their hospital systems are now locked in crisis talks to keep doors open. The federal government is involved too.
“The important thing is that we keep beds open, particularly ICU beds,” Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack told 9News.
Governments could temporarily acquire beds or pay nurses allowing them to be on hand when they might be needed more than ever.
Health Minister Greg Hunt told 9News sacking nurses during this crisis “is an astonishing breach of faith”.
The national cabinet is expected to sign off on a deal regarding private hospital beds tomorrow.