Private pathology profits from COVID-19 misery

When the pandemic hit every public pathology laboratory was ready to put in the work and they made sure they were ready to do the rapid testing and reporting needed to help protect Victorians, and Australians. Remember the world leading research and development work performed by VIDRL. Sadly, we can’t say the same for private pathology providers.

Private pathology providers claimed they had no capacity and were not capable of performing the high-volume rapid testing and reporting needed to protect Victorians and Australians.

Enter the Morrison Government’s decision to increase the Medicare payment for private pathology companies performing COVID tests by up to 250%, and bingo, private pathology was overnight performing massively increased numbers of tests and harvesting massively increased income and profits from Medicare payments. It is evident the heavy lobbying of private pathology providers on the Morrison Government was extraordinarily rewarding.

We have witnessed since March 2020, with the pandemic still raging, the continuing need to perform huge rapid testing numbers.

Last financial year, Australian Clinical Labs’ profit rose 46 per cent to $60.4 million. Sonic Healthcare saw an even bigger profit rise of 149 per cent to $1.3 billion. Dorevitch’s parent, Helius, reported revenue soaring to $1.9 billion, up around 30%.

The ongoing waves of COVID-19, its variants and an increased Medicare subsidy are providing private pathology companies continuing soaring revenues and profits.

The Medicare payment windfall was not enough. ACL also received JobKeeper payment from the Morrison Government, and to further its profiteering, cut the hours/incomes of many staff across the state, some of whom are yet to have these reinstated.

Victorians are entitled to judge private pathology providers for putting profit margins ahead of public health concerns. It is clear that the Andrews Government needs to deliver on its promise to reform public pathology and removing private providers from our public health system must be a central part of the reform.

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